New Orleans Public Library
|Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans|
Dr. Hugh Kennedy (1810-1868)
Dr. Hugh Kennedy was born in Belfast, Ireland, July 1, 1810. His family were all highly educated and occupied high social and professional positions. One of his brothers filled a consular position in Texas by appointment of the British Government. Another brother was a prominent doctor in New Orleans. His father was a British Government official and was also engaged in a cotton and calico printing plant. Hugh was educated in the Belfast Academical and Collegiate Institution conducted by Presbyterians and Congregationalists. After completing his education, he joined two of his brothers in London, one I the medical profession and the other in literature. Hugh tried practicing law, but not being satisfied with this profession, he decided to go to America and in June 1833 sailed for New York. This city not being to this liking, he came to New Orleans and being a thorough scientist and chemist, he first engaged with a Dr. Olivier in a large drug store, corner Bienville and Chartres Streets. He also devoted much time to literature and politics. When the True Delta was established, Dr. Kennedy wrote its leading editorials, in fact he was the editor in chief of this publication for many years.|
When Lieutenant-Governor J. Madison Wells, in accord with Major Hurlburt, Commander of the Department of the Gulf, appointed Dr. Kennedy to the office of Mayor of the city, he told him that the situation in the city was so perplexing and alarming that it required respectable and trustworthy citizens to take charge of the local government, otherwise the national authorities would be compelled to take over. Dr. Kennedy having been a resident of this city for over thirty years and having always shown great interest in city affairs, unquestionably possessed much useful and practical knowledge of city government. He was a man known for moral firmness, courage and energy. It may be interesting to note that he was the fifth acting mayor of the city since its occupation by General Butler and the only man appointed from civil life or from residents of this city.
His appointment was a long step towards restoration of self-government in New Orleans, due to the fact that the new mayor held his office by virtue of both the civil arms as well as the military. In his administration of office he recognized no party, as this was the first time in his life that he held public office.
He at once began to check the wasteful administration which had made the city government so unpopular. He reduced his own salary and the salary of all those city employees under his jurisdiction, this saving alone amounted to about $4,000 per annum. He also took steps to effect a saving in the police department which came under his direct jurisdiction by reducing the number and salaries of police and lieutenants without affecting the efficiency of the organization. He effected a saving of approximately $40,000 per annum. He furthermore undertook to reform departments known as “Bureau of Finance” and “Bureau of Streets and Landings.” Glendy Burke was chairman of the former.
There arose, naturally much complaint from the dismissed officials. One of the deposed men carried his grievance to General Hurlburt who at first paid no heed to him as well as to the other critics, but when it began to be said that Kennedy was displacing Union men and putting persons unfriendly to the United States Government in their stead, he became alarmed and lost faith in the good intentions of Mayor Kennedy. Finally on May 5th he issued an order by which Mayor Kennedy was removed from his office. There really seems to have been no ground for the above rumors, in fact, Mayor Kennedy seemed to have been scrupulously careful to appoint to office only men whose loyalty to the national government could not be questioned.
Mayor Kennedy was in Washington, D.C. when the order was issued again placing him at the head of the city’s administration. Glendy Burke was likewise reinstated as chairman of the Bureau of Finance, having served as acting Mayor until the return of Kennedy.
The Mayor favored the construction of new street railways. Steps were also being taken to lease the city’s wharves as the city was unable to do the extensive work required owing to lack of funds; and so private parties obligated themselves to pay the city $550,000 over a period of ten years for the lease. This contract was considered very advantageous for the city.
Another important step was the establishment of a school board of twenty-four members, as per ordinance passed August 26th, 1865, (Ord. 6335) a sum of $240,000 was appropriated for the support of the schools.
Mayor Kennedy was also greatly interested in having the New Orleans and Opelousas and the Jackson and Great Northern Railroads returned to the stockholders. These roads had been seized by Butler in 1862 and were operated by the military authorities. Prior to being seized they had been a very profitable business, the Jackson road having paid $5,000,000 per annum. Under military management these earnings had disappeared and the properties were heavily in debt. The Mayor sent Dr. Thomas Cottman, who was interested in these negotiations, as commissioner to Washington to confer with President Johnson. He was entirely successful, the President not only approved the measures suggested by the Mayor, but used the occasion to express himself in a warm and sympathetic way regarding the situation in Louisiana. Kennedy now proceeded to appoint new boards and an election was called at which the city used its obvious right to choose the kind of board of directors it desired. The revival of rail traffic gave unbounded joy to the people.
Now also seemed to be the appropriate time for the election of city officials. Four had elapsed since the people of New Orleans had the opportunity to express their will at the polls. The qualifications for voting were made contingent under the production of the amnesty oaths required in the presidential proclamations of December 8, 1863. It was understood that all those who were excluded for any reason from the benefit of the amnesty oaths would not be permitted to vote unless specially pardoned by the President.
May 12th, 1865 was the day fixed for the election of Mayor and all other city officials. The campaign was interesting because it witnessed the appearance of the National Democratic and of the Democratic Conservative parties. This ended the Military appointees.
Dr. Kennedy was elected President of the Board of Directors of the Crescent City Railroad Company, May 1, 1875.
When in his seventies, Dr. Kennedy moved to Louisville, Ky. Where he engaged in coal mine investments, he was reasonably successful in this undertaking. He died May 19, 1888. His wife, a daughter of Maunsel White, and three daughters survived him.
|Members of the Kennedy Administration|
March 21-June 8, 1865
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