Earlier this month, members of the Ohio House of Representatives voted to expel former speaker Larry Householder following his indictment on bribery charges.
Such action is extremely rare in Ohio. The last time the House took such action was before the Civil War — and an Ashtabula County man played a prominent role.
John P. Slough of Hamilton County was expelled after he struck a fellow lawmaker while on the floor of the House chambers. The victim of the blow? Andover native Darius Cadwell.
Cadwell, born in 1821, taught in county schools before studying law and joining a Jefferson-based law firm in 1847 before serving in the House starting in 1856.
The Slough-Cadwell incident happened in time in January 1857, the start of the second session of the 52nd General Assembly, according to the Journal of the House of Representatives.
At issue was a motion Slough had previously brought to the floor regarding the per diem and mileage of House members. On Jan. 14, 1857, Slough’s motion was taken from the table and was “indefinitely postponed” by a 73-32 vote, according to the Journal.
Slough, a Democrat, was upset by the vote his motion received in the Republican-controlled House, according to accounts. After the vote was taken, Slough and Cadwell — a Republican — exchanged words and Slough punched his colleague in the head.
The Journal describes the fracas in very diplomatic terms, saying a “personal difficulty” occurred between “Messrs. Slough and Cadwell.” A five-man committee was appointed to investigate the matter.
Two days later, Slough read a statement into the record. In his remarks, Slough hinted that Cadwell made an insulting remark that he felt required a strong response. The people Slough represented would demand nothing less, he inferred.
“I have no fear that but that the constituency I in part represent, upon information of the circumstances that led to the rencontre, would recognize my right, yea, would expect me to resent insult in the manner deemed most proper by me, yet in such a case as the present, would demand of me the adoption of the course I now pursue,” he said, according to the Journal.
Slough bore no hard feelings against his fellow lawmaker, he said.
“The personal relationship existing between the member [Cadwell] and myself prior to this occurrence was of a friendly character,” Slough said in his statement. “I am of those who permit no ordinary circumstances to interfere with friendship, yet I acted in the belief that the insult offered was designed; I have no reason now to change that opinion, and whilst I disown all idea of apology toward the member, for I feel that the insult demanded chastisement, yet entertain no vindictiveness.”
Slough wrapped up his statement by indicating he made a mistake.
“To the House I would say that I regret the breach of rule and propriety occasioned by my act,” he said. “I feel that have thus done everything that could be properly demanded by the House, not for the purpose of attempting to influence in the least its final action in the premises, but for the purpose of placing myself right in the opinion of my constituency and the people of the State generally.”
If Slough felt his statement would smooth things over, he was wrong. On Jan. 22, the investigating committee submitted reports on the matter, which spawned two proposed resolutions. The first acknowledged that Slough “did inflict a heavy blow upon the face of one of his fellow members,” but also noted Slough’s “full and unequivocal confession.” That resolution threatened expulsion if he acted up again.
Slough’s enemies and those outraged by the incident, however, served up a different proposed resolution: Slough had to go.
In the days that followed, Slough’s friends in the House offered resolutions that proposed other punishments, including formal censure, in hopes of heading off expulsion. But at the end of January, the resolution demanding Slough’s expulsion came to a vote, and was approved by a 71-32 margin — two-thirds of the votes cast. Slough instantly became an ex-member of the Ohio House of Representatives.
The two men at the heart of the historic matter would go on to lead very different lives. Cadwell would serve one more year in the Ohio House before serving two years as a state senator, according to Case Western Reserve University’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. He would later be a provost marshal during the Civil War, open a law office in Cleveland in 1870 and then be elected Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge, a position he held until 1884.
Cadwell died in November 1905 at age 84.
After failing to win re-election to his House seat, Slough headed west later in 1857. He would later serve as a commander during the Civil War, and then open a law office in Washington D.C. Following the war. President Andrew Johnson appointed Slough to the New Mexico Territorial Court, where he would issue rulings that inflamed the locals, according to internet sources.
Slough reportedly slandered one vocal critic, prompting the man to shoot and kill Slough in Santa Fe in December 1867. Slough was 38 years old.