Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 408, Horace N. Congar (1817-1893), Editor, diplomat, and politician
Papers, 1863-1905, 6 linear feet
Call Number: MG 408 + Box and folder number
Correspondence of Mr. and Mrs. Horace N. Congar; diaries; manuscripts of newspaper articles written by Mr. Congar; poetry and literary compositions; commonplace books; commissions; personal financial records; financial records of New Jersey' s Republican State Executive Committee; scrapbooks; genealogy; minute book, 1892-1893, of The Newark Pearl Novelty Company retained by Congar as secretary-treasurer. Much of the correspondence concerns Congar's involvement in Republican politics and his service as consul to Hong Kong and then to Prague. Included are letters of:
Horace Newton Congar (1817-1893) was a radical republican politician during the mid-nineteenth century and served on both the state and national levels. Mr. Congar had a great love for his party, and hope for its success which is reflected in his writing, It is a pure cause with a true basis and in its success is identified all that is viable in our government. The Republican Party may commit errors, some of its men may be corrupt, but they are but splits in the seam. I sincerely trust that the republicans may succeed, as I am confident the horror and welfare of the nation, is bound up with their success.
Horace Newton Congar was born in Newark on July 31, 1817. He married Isabell Reeves and had two children; a daughter Ella and a son Horace Junior. Horace Congar taught school for a while and he studied law in his leisure time. He was admitted to the New Jersey State Bar in 1847, and later, Cornelius Boice of Plainfield, and Lewis Grove of Newark, were his law partners.
Congar was a friend of the abolitionist cause and he was one of the founders of the antislavery Free Soil Party in New Jersey. The party slogan, Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men, basically described the party platform. Congar later became a delegate from New Jersey to the Republican National Convention in 1848, which was held in Buffalo. He supported the nomination of Van Buren for president, and Adams for vice-president.
Two years later, in 1850, Congar became the editor of the Newark Daily Mercury. This newspaper was the leading radical republican paper in the state of New Jersey in the 1850s. His outspoken position at the paper made him an ideal candidate, again, to be a New Jersey delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860. William Steward was Congars presidential choice at the Chicago convention, while he believed Lincoln was an acceptable second choice. When it was time for the national election, Horace threw his full support to Lincoln.
Congars support of Lincoln paid off. Lincoln, after his election to the Presidency, appointed Congar the U.S. Consular to Hong Kong. Hong Kong was one of the most important appointments in the Far East, and the third most important position that Lincoln gave to a citizen from New Jersey. (The top two position given to Jersey residents were; William L. Dayton as Minister to France; and Theodore Dudley as Consulship to Liverpool.) Congar enjoyed his position in Hong Kong and, from what he wrote in his correspondence, he apparently held the Chinese people in high regard, but he always wondered why they did not excel in the political arts as much as they had in other areas. Poor health was responsible for Congars resignation, and his return to the United States in 1865.
When Horace arrived in Washington following his resignation, President Lincoln honored him with another governmental position. Horace Congar was appointed as Unites States Commissioner of Immigration. During this time, Assistant Secretary of the State Frederick Steward, became ill on two separate occasions and as a result Steward was temporarily relieved of his duties and Congar was chosen to fill his position. Congar, however did not stay in Washington for long, as he resigned from his position as Commissioner of Immigration to serve in the new Jersey State government. Congar became Secretary of the State (New Jersey) in 1866. He retained that position until 1870, when he resigned his political office, to become vice president of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company.
Congar resigned as the Mutual Benefit Company vice president three years later because of poor health, which was partly a result of over work. He did not stay out of work for long. The same year, 1873, President Grant appointed Congar United States Consular to Prague. He returned to his native New Jersey in 1875. Upon returning home he once again left the political spot light for the business world. He returned to the Mutual Benefit Company, to work as an insurance adjuster. No further information was found on any other political or business positions that Congar might have held. It therefore must be assumed that Congar held the position of adjustor until his retirement.
Congar constantly kept in touch with many political figures, on the state as well as the national level. Some of who were: Senator Alexander Cattell, Governor Marcus Ward, garret Hobart, William Seward, and Schuyler Colfax. In the collection there is also correspondence from President Hayes, Andrew Johnson, and a few documents signed by President Lincoln and President Grant. Throughout his life in service at home or abroad, and in the business world, Congars interest in politics on the national and local levels never declined. Horace Newton Congar died on January 25, 1893. His wife and family survived him.
The collection consists of seven boxes of correspondence from 1846-1893, and a bound volume called the Horace N. Congar Commissions. This bound volume contains a number of letters and many documents.
The correspondence in this collection consists mostly of incoming letters. Many of these letters are from the Congar family. His wife, daughter Ella and brother Stephen are the authors of the majority of these letters. The political correspondence is most interesting during the key election years, especially during the Civil War years.
The letters, which were authored by Congar himself during his trip through the South following the war, are both interesting and informative. The trip was basically a political journey, which was undertaken by a number of republican politicians. The letters span April and May of 1869. Congar gives a very personal account of the scenery and the mood of the people in the various areas they passed through. His correspondence contains notes of sympathy for the people, but also a feeling of justice. He comes to the conclusion during this trip that the South, ..is no place for Northern people. He arrives at this conclusion from the general mood of the Southern people. Norfolk is a good example of what he encountered. Congar says of that city, There is no change on the feelings of the people. They know no loyalty to our government and are only subject because they are powerless. The collection also contains a few boxes of miscellaneous material that have not yet been inventoried.
A more item level accurate inventory is available in the data file. Although that original inventory only lists seven of the nine boxes in the existing collection, the seven boxes listed are at the item level and should still be accurate marks for what the collection actually contains. A portion of this original inventory has been reproduced as a brief reference.
Processed by Lori Danielson
The New Jersey Historical Society