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Ames, Oakes

AMES, OAKES (1804-1873), American manufacturer, capitalist and politician, was born in Easton, Massachusetts, on the 10th of January 1804. As a manufacturer of shovels, in association with his father and his brother Oliver (1807-1877), he amassed a large fortune. In 1860 he became a member of the executive council of Massachusetts, and from 1863 to 1873 was a republican member of the national House of Representatives. As a member of the committee on railroads he became interested in the project, greatly aided by the government, to build a trans-continental railway, connecting the eastern states with California. Others having failed, he was induced in 1865 to assume the direction of the work, and to him more than to any other one man the credit for the construction of the Union Pacific railway was due. The execution was effected largely through a construction company, the Credit Mobilier Company of America. In disposing of some of the stock of this company, Ames in 1867-1871 sold a number of shares to members of Congress at a price much below what these shares eventually proved to be worth. This, on becoming known, gave rise in 1872-1873 to a great congressional scandal. After an investigation by a committee of the House, which recommended the expulsion of Ames, a resolution was passed on the 28th of February 1873, "that the House absolutely condemns the conduct of Oakes Amesin seeking to secure congressional attention to the affairs of a corporation in which he was interested, and whose interest directly depended upon the legislation of Congress, by inducing members of Congress to invest in the stocks of said corporation." Many have since attributed this resolution to partisanship, and the influence of popular clamour, and in 1883 the legislature of Massachusetts passed a resolution vindicating Ames. He died at North Easton, Mass., on the 8th of May 1873. His son, OLIVER AMES (1831-1895), was lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts from 1883 until 1887, and governor from 1887 to 1890.

See CREDIT MOBILIER OF AMERICA and the references there given. For a defence of Oakes Ames, see Oakes Ames, A Memorial Volume (Cambridge, Mass., 1884).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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