Henry S. Sanford was one of the most influential American diplomats and businessmen of the nineteenth century. His large post-Civil War investments in Florida resulted in the establishment of the city of Sanford on Lake Monroe in central Florida ( Seminole County) and the early development of Florida’s citrus industry.
A native of Connecticut and son of a successful industrialist, Sanford was born on June 23, 1823. He travelled widely in his youth and entered the U.S. diplomatic service in 1847, beginning a career that would see him serve in Russia, Germany, France, and Belgium. President Lincoln appointed Sanford Minister to Belgium in 1861. From that post, he worked to prevent Belgian diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy, managed Union intelligence gathering in Europe, and procured European arms for the North. After the war, Sanford began buying orange groves in Florida, acquiring land outside of St. Augustine and along Lake Monroe, where his holdings became the foundation for the creation of the city of Sanford in the 1870s. In 1880, he founded the Florida Land and Colonization Company to encourage the growth of his city. Sanford also played an active if behind-the-scenes role in Florida politics, where his moderate views had some appeal to both Republican and Democratic leaders in the state. However, despite actively lobbying for an appointment to the U.S. Senate, Sanford failed to achieve political office in Florida. From 1877-1888, he lobbied and conducted diplomacy for Belgian King Leopold II’s colonization of the Congo. Family problems and a series of financial setbacks contributed to Sanford’s deteriorating health in the late 1880s. He died while trying to recover his heath at Healing Springs, Virginia, on May 21, 1891.
In the following three-page letter written on February 18, 1887 from Washington, D. C., Sanford forwards a letter to recently inaugurated Governor George F. Drew that he had originally meant to send to Drew in November 1876, following the controversial presidential election that year. During the election, Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate, won the popular vote and was leading in the electoral count with 184 votes over Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who had 165; however, there were 20 disputed electoral votes in Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon. After a protracted political and legal battle, a Congressional commission awarded the disputed delegates to Hayes (who had agreed to end federal military intervention in the three disputed southern states) a few days before the presidential inauguration on March 4, 1877. The Compromise of 1877 (the name given to the supposed deal between Congressional Democrats and Hayes Republicans) ended Reconstruction in the South, returning Florida and other southern states to Democratic rule and eventually ending black political participation in the South until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sanford’s letter predicts that Hayes will win the electoral struggle and expresses hope for cooperation between moderate Democrats and Republicans in Florida under Drew’s administration.
The following transcription contains all of the original text (no changes have been made in spelling or grammar).
1744 G St. NW
18 Febry 77
I find I omitted to send you the promised copy of a letter I wrote November last—here it is.
Hayes will doubtless be declared elected and be inaugurated without difficulty if with some disappointment on the side of the Democrats.
I have no doubt his administration