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Genealogical and Personal History of Centre and Clinton County, Pennsylvania, 1912

Honorable A. G. Curtin Biography

Honorable A. G. Curtin, son of Roland Curtin, Sr., was born in Bellefonte, April 22, 1819. He completed an academic course of education at the academy of Rev. David Kirkpatrick, D.D., in Milton, studied law under Hon. W. W. Potter in Bellefonte, completing a course of legal study under Judge John Reed in the Law Department of Dickinson College at Carlisle.

He was admitted to the bar at April term of 1837. In 1840 he took an active part in politics in what was known as the Harrison campaign, and in 1844 canvassed the State for Henry Clay for President. In 1848 and 1852 he was on the State ticket of Presidential electors. On the 17th of January, 1855, he was commissioned by Governor James Pollock Secretary of the Commonwealth, which position also included that of superintendent of the public schools.

Progressive in every station he reached, his superintendence of State education has as one of its landmarks the institution of the system of normal schools, his recommendations and his annual reports culminating in the passage of the act of May 20, 1857, " to provide for the due training of teachers for the common schools of the State."

In 1860, Mr. Curtin was nominated by the Republican party as their candidate for Governor, and elected over Henry D. Foster by a majority of thirty-two thousand one hundred and seven votes. His administration of the gubernatorial office during the dark days of the republic made an imperishable name for his family, and added historic grandeur to the annals of our Commonwealth.

The foresight which impelled him to refuse to disband the overflowing volunteer regiments which the patriotism of Pennsylvania contributed on the call of the President, and his prompt application to the Legislature for authority to organize them into a corps, afterwards the famous "Pennsylvania Reserves," saved the-national government imperiled by the disaster of Bull Run.

The addresses he made when presenting flags to the Pennsylvania regiments as they went forth to fight for the Union will only be forgotten when the last volley is fired over the last Pennsylvania veteran of the war. Those two hundred and fifteen battle-flags, bearing the aegis of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, came back blood-stained, tattered, and torn, but never disgraced upon any battle-field of the republic.

Governor Curtin's ever-enduring memorial, however, in connection with the war is the orphan schools for the children of those who gave their lives that the Union might live. Recurring to his promise to the soldiers, as thousands of men stood before him for the last time, that Pennsylvania never would forget or neglect them or theirs, and that their children should be the children of the State, he clung to that purpose with a tenacity worthy of such a grand and noble cause.

Amid his ceaseless care for the soldiers on the field and in the hospital he never forgot "those who were left at home by the gallant fellows who bad gone forward." It was the grand undertone of his magnificent speech in the Academy of Music, at Philadelphia: "Let the widow and her dependent offspring in fact and in truth be the children of the State, and let the mighty people of this great Commonwealth nurture and maintain them."

In January, 1864, in his annual message, he brought the subject to the attention of the Legislature in the memorable words, "I commend to the prompt attention of the Legislature the subject of the relief of the poor orphans of our soldiers who have given or shall give their lives to the country during this crisis. In my opinion their maintenance and education should be provided for by the State. Failing other natural friends of ability, they should be honorably received and fostered as the children of the Commonwealth."

Failing in getting through the Legislature a proper bill, which had been matured with great care, the Governor started with the noble donation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company of fifty thousand dollars, and laid the foundation for the soldiers' orphans' schools, a work of beneficence, righteousness, and justice which will keep Governor Curtin's memory fragrant for ages to come, the good results of which, felt all through time, the judgment day only will fully reveal.

Governor Curtin's health was much broken by arduous service during his first term, and President Lincoln tendered him a foreign mission, which it was his intention to accept, but having been renominated for Governor, and the people of the State being unwilling to part with their war Governor, he filled out a second term of the gubernatorial office.

In 1869 he was appointed by President Grant minister to Russia, and returned to this country in the fall of 1872. In 1873 he was a member of the convention which framed the present Constitution of Pennsylvania, and now (1882) represents the Twentieth District in the House of Representatives of. the United States.

As a popular speaker, Governor Curtin has few equals. Thoroughly versed in the political history of the State and the nation, extensively acquainted with public men, familiar with the business interests and wants of the country, a fine voice, happy delivery, a keen sense of the humorous and ridiculous, of handsome person and commanding presence, his speeches always tell upon great popular audiences, and as a legislator in Congress he has filled the expectation of his friends, and taken rank among its foremost statesmen.

Source: History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania; John Blair Linn; Philadelphia; Louis H. Everts; 1883

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