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A SUMMARY OF GOVERNOR BROWN'S CHARACTER. The personal history of Governor Brown is blended with and becomes an important part of the history of the State, as appears up to the time of his displacement by the military power of the United States at the close of the late war; and his political course after the war and during the period of the reconstruction of the State, and of political parties fully appears in that part of our narrative.
Governor Brown like all leaders of the people has been the subject of opposition, and has suffered defeat. The failure of the Confederacy was a sore and humiliating defeat to him, as well as to all the dominant party leaders of the South. After his brilliant triumphs before the people of the State, anterior to and during the war, never having been defeated in any popular election, and after he had become the leader of reconstruction in this State and the subject of extreme and bitter opposition by his former political friends and allies, he became a candidate for the first time before a legislative body—a body composed of a large majority of members agreeing with him in political tenets. He was nominated by the party caucus for the office of United States senator. His former defeated rival in 1863 for the office of governor, the Hon. Joshua Hill, became also a candidate and, dividing the Republican and receiving the Democratic vote of the General Assembly, was elected over Brown.
Soon afterward he was nominated by Governor Bullock and confirmed by the Senate, as chief justice of the supreme court of the State for the term of twelve years. It had been eleven years since he resigned the judgeship of the Blue Ridge circuit, to enter the Executive office. He had grown older and maturer in judgment, his intellectual powers had been quickened and strengthened by constant and often intense and exciting labor and application in the matters of state.
The people, even those who severely condemned his late political course, awarded to him superior mental power and fitness for the judicial office.
The expectation of the public was amply fulfilled in the prompt, firm, able, and impartial administration of the chief justice during his short career. Hon. Hiram Warner-who had long been a superior court judge in early life, a superior court judge after the close of the war, a supreme court judge for eight years on the first organization of the court, and since the war chief justice, and who is now the chief justice—and the Hon. H. K. McKay, a man of great ability and labor, were his associates. Many of the questions for adjudication were new and exciting to the public mind. The judges sometimes differed in opinion and, all being made of stern material, they continued to differ. The published opinions are characterized by learning, ability, and firmness, and form a series of authoritative decisions on all the important legal and constitutional questions of that period. In the latter part of 1870 Governor Brown resigned the office of chief justice and took charge of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, as president of the company of lessees, as we shall see.
His career since retiring from active connection with politics appears to the public to have been, if possible, better adapted to his capabilities and talents, and has been crowned with still greater success, as a financier, in the management of the public enterprises confided to him, as well as in that of his own private fortune ; for the ten years intervening are matters of universal commendation and approval in commercial and business circles, because of a general and grand success, free from all well grounded suspicions, implication or charges of unfairness, fraud or violation of public or private faith and engagements. In this characteristic, which distinguishes him from many of his contemporaries, he has erected to himself a monument that will be and should be more enduring than the stones that an earthly accumulation may and will, within a few years rapidly coming and going, place above his resting place in mother earth.
One of the enterprises in which he embarked, which has proven to be a grand financial success, and connects him directly with the material welfare and progress of the State, in the development of a part of her vast subterranean wealth, was that of coal mining at Sand Mountain in Dade county, near the borders of Alabaina and Tennessee. This enterprise began as a private company, but was afterward incorporated under the name of the Dade Coal Company. The stock is owned, one-half by Joseph E. Brown, and son Julius L. Brown; the other half by John T. Grant, and son W. D. Grant, and W. C. Morrill, of Atlanta. Ex-Governor Brown has been president of this company from its organization to this time. The company owns fifteen thousand acres of lands of untold mineral deposits; employs three hundred State penitentiary convicts as lessees of the State; and about one hundred other persons as engineers, laborers, overseers, and guards. Their works turn out from 13,000 to 14,000 bushels of coal per day; which yields a large amount of coke, as good as any in the United States, which supersedes the burning of timber for charcoal.
In addition to these extensive coal and coke operations, under the presidency and sagacious management of ExGovernor Brown, that company in connection with Mr. J. C. Warner of Tennessee has lately purchased the Rising Fawn iron property and furnace, in Dade county, embracing about seven thousand acres, including a large amount of coal and iron ore, and has upon it one of the finest iron furnaces of the country.
The whole property, including construction of the furnace and improvements, cost the new company, the original owners, upwards of a half million of dollars. The company, under authority of an act of the Legislature, issued their bonds to the amount of $300,000 secured by mortgage on the property, and, having made default of payment of the interest for a considerable period of time, the bondholders proceeded to foreclose the mortgage in the United States circuit court for Georgia. Under the decree of foreclosure, the property was sold by the United States marshal at Atlanta, and purchased by the Dade Coal Company, and Mr. Warner, an experienced iron manufacturer, for one hundred and thirty thousand dollars. These parties are operating the furnace successfully. It consumes from eighty to ninety tons of coke per day, which is made at the Dade coal mine; also consuming per day about one hundred tons of iron ore, and producing per day about fifty tons of pig iron.
In connection with this the Dade Coal Company is constructing a railroad from Rogers station on the Western and Atlantic railroad to some inexhaustible deposits of superior iron ore, located on Petet's creek in Dade county ; from which it is expected the company will ship large quantities to the different places in the South.
In view of the vast improvements in railways and works at the company's expense, the vast and increasing demand for their products, and that of the deposits of coal and iron belonging to them, these enterprises taken together are much the largest and most important of any of the kind ever made in the State.
His successful management,while governor, of the Western & Atlantic railroad, as the property of the State; the conversion of the immense public capital invested in it, from what was constantly denounced as a vast political machine attended with public expense, to the basis of a well managed and paying railroad; cxcluding political corruption and private peculation, making it a source of great income to the State treasury,—has only been equaled by his successful career as president of the company of lessees from the State, from 1870 to this time.
Perhaps no higher tribute has been paid to his superior forecast, sagacity, and entire safety and reliability as a business man, than the presidency of the Southern Railway and Steamship Association, in 1874, upon its
organization, and the annual re-election from that time to the present.
This association embraces all the steamship lines running down the Atlantic coast, and most of the railways east of the Mississippi river, between the Potomac and the Ohio.
His grand and far-seeing policy of public education, that engrossed so much of his heart and mind while gov- .