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Nathaniel Prentice Banks Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Nathaniel Prentice Banks passes away 1894.

Nathaniel Prentice Banks was an American politician and soldier.

Banks was born in Waltham, Massachusetts on January 30th, 1816. He attended local schools until the age of 14. Banks continued his education after the formal portion ended. Some days walking to the public library in Boston to further his knowledge.

Banks then got a job at the mill where his father worked. There he gained the nickname Bobbin Boy Banks, a nickname which continued all of his life. At the mill, he started a debate society, allowing him and other workers to work on their oration skills.

Banks work with the debate society got him the attention of the Democratic party, who were impressed with his speaking skills. In 1844 he ran as a Democrat for the state legislature, he lost. In 1847 he ran, unsuccessfully, again for the state legislature.

In 1848 Banks made a successful run for the State Legislature. At first Banks was moderate on the expansion of Slavery. After seeing the power the abolitionist movement was wielding, he attached himself to it. He also become part of the Free Soil Party, a third party at the time whose sole issue was the abolition of slavery. In 1850, Banks became Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

In 1852, Banks was elected to Congress. He did this without Democratic support when he refused to disavow his abolitionist position. In Congress he broke from the party to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act which allowed white settlers in those areas to control whether slavery was allowed in their regions.

At the open of Thirty-Fourth congress, Banks was elected as Speaker of the House. This was after one of the most bitter political battles for the position. It lasted from November of 1855 to February of 1856. The coalition electing him was made up of the anti-slavery members of the House.

In 1857, Banks now a Republican, ran for and was elected Governor of Massachusetts.

As the Civil War approached, Abraham Lincoln considered Banks for a cabinet position. Instead Banks was appointed as one of the first major-generals of volunteers. Although he was at first resented by many West Point graduates who served under him, they eventually began to respect him.

After the war, Banks was elected to Congress to several terms over the next few decades. He served in Congress from 1865 to 1873. He was reelected to congress in 1875 and served until 1879.

After Banks was defeated in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Banks as United States marshal. He served until 1888 when he was elected to Congress for one more term. Failing mental health led to him only having one final term.

Banks passed away on September 1st, 1894. His death made national headlines.

Banks was a member of Monitor Lodge in Waltham, Massachusetts.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.