Edward Patrick "Ed" Reagan (July 14, 1850 - October 5, 1928) was an American politician from Pacifica who served as a three-term territorial Governor and later a six-term Senator, taking office upon statehood in June of 1899 and serving until his death in 1928. As Senator, Reagan emerged as the powerful leader of the moderate Western Democrats, becoming a fierce advocate for war with Japan in the 1920s while also lobbying for women's suffrage, expanded labor rights and a robust role for the National Bank in light of the early 1920s economic crisis. The son of Irish immigrants, Reagan was a devout Catholic and a staunch supporter of fellow Democrat Al Smith, whom he considered a personal friend; Reagan became famous in 1924 when he filibustered three inconsequential bills on the Senate floor to defend Roman Catholicism from attacks by Southern Democrats. He died at the age of 78 in October of 1928 after a long illness.
Reagan is regarded as a seminal figure in his home state of Pacifica as well - he was a volunteer in the Alaskan War, seeing action at Burrard, Bellingham I and II, Snohomish, Whatcom Pass and at the Delta Campaign. He was promoted to Colonel by the end of the war despite never having attended officer's school, and retired from the Army in 1889 as a highly decorated veteran of the conflict. He was made Speaker of the Fraser Territory Legislature in 1893, and became a fierce advocate for statehood. At the 1898 Statehood Convention in Whiskey Bay, at this point Governor of the Fraser Territory, he brokered a transfer of the state capitol to Whiskey Bay instead of the proposal to place it in Sahalee, agreed that the legislature would appoint one Democrat and one Nationalist to the Senate upon statehood, and elevated John F. Boll, a 75-year old Democratic planter to be Governor upon Statehood.
For his efforts, the Edward P. Reagan Government Building is named after him in Whiskey Bay, as is the Ed Reagan State Highway (SR-1) that follows the west coast of Vancouver Island. Edward Reagan High School in Sumner is likewise named after him. In 1999, he was named the #17 most important Senator of the century, and is generally regarded as the finest politician to emerge from Pacifica.
Early Life and Career
Edward Patrick Reagan was born to Patrick John Reagan and Mary O'Shalley in the Five Points neighborhood of New York on July 14, 1850. He was the oldest of eight children, only three of whom lived to adulthood. His family suffered from abject poverty and his father, according to Reagan's memoir, was an alcoholic who was murdered in 1861 over a gambling debt. Reagan's mother, unable to care for all of the children, sent him to Cincinnati, Ohio to apprentice as a banking clerk with a better-off cousin in 1863 - it was at this point Reagan learned to read and write. He spent two years at Blaine College in Kentucky studying economics before leaving to work for the Ohio River Company on steamboats. Reagan married Catherine Donovan of Louisville in 1876 and they later moved to St. Louis, where he worked as a merchant. During this time, the Reagans remained fairly poor, and in 1880 Catherine died of cholera.
A widower at thirty years old and with few economic prospects beyond menial labor in St. Louis, Reagan joined the U.S. Army in 1882 and was stationed at Fort Clay in modern-day Colorado. He was transferred to Fort Nisqually in Tacoma in 1884 and promoted to Captain for his service in Colorado shortly prior to the Alaskan War, at which point he was transferred to the V Corps of the Army of Oregon under General J.T. Nansett.
Reagan, and the rest of the V Corps, spent most of the Battle of Burrard protecting the southern bank of the Fraser from attacks from the eastern flank of the position, and so avoided the worst of the fighting except for skirmishes near present-day Syracuse at Long Orchards, where they rebuffed two attempted crossings by Alaskan infantry from the 3rd Division of the Army of the Pacific. The intact V Corps made up the bulk of the defensive positions at Bellingham a few weeks later, where Reagan and five men under his command successfully held a crucial farmhouse against four Alaskan attacks despite being low on ammunition - in his memoir, Reagan recalled killing three men in hand-to-hand combat.
Reagan was promoted to Major due to bravery and was commended for his command at Skagit and Snohomish, after which he was briefly stationed again at Fort Nisqually. In late 1885, he returned to participate in the Second Battle of Bellingham and saw action in the long and arduous Delta Campaigns, which concluded with the ambitious February 1886 offensive at the Last Battle of Delta and the subsequent Battle of Sahalee, where Reagan was wounded when a piece of wood gashed his arm, and he was rotated back to Fort Nisqually permanently. Sahalee would be the final combat Reagan would see.
In 1887, he was promoted to Colonel and charged with organizing supplies to the rebuilding of the region - shortly thereafter, when the 1887 ceasefire was finalized and the Treaty of Sofiyagrad signed to officially end the war, he was honorably discharged and as an officer given a pension and reimbursement of land near Snohomish. In 1889, Reagan sold his land to buy new territory in the Fraser Valley and moved there instead.
Pacifica Politics: 1889-1899
Once in the Fraser Territory, Reagan met Sarah Calvert (1871-1950), the daughter of a Canadian Catholic farmer, whom he married in 1891 and had six children with. The Reagans lived in what is today Century, just down up the river from Sahalee. In 1890, Reagan ran for the Territorial Legislature and was elected as a war hero. With most legislators in the unicameral chamber being fairly young and mostly farmers, Reagan stood out as a prominent figure from the territory's most important region. After winning another term in 1892 with ease, his peers appointed him Speaker of the Legislature. He built a close friendship with then-Governor John Fitzgerald Boll (1824-1908), an apple farmer from the Okanagan Valley who had led a volunteer militia to fight the Alaskans in the war despite having been in his sixties.
As Speaker, Reagan offered land grants to veterans, encouraged new railroads be built connecting the mainland cities of Sahalee, Kelowna and Kamloops, and began to work on a proposal for a state constitution for a state of "Fraser." He was elected Governor in 1894, uniting a diverse statewide coalition of eastern farmers, western laborers and displaced war veterans. He failed to win significant support on Vancouver Island. He would be elected Governor of Fraser Territory again in 1896 and 1898 - the Fraser Territory had its Territorial Charter re-worked in 1889 in order to popularly elect territorial officials, whereas previously they were appointed.
His greatest challenge as Governor was keeping the peace during the Alaskan Gold Rush, in which prospectors waiting to head north to Alaska stayed in tent cities surrounding Sahalee and behaved violently. At the same time, he was building support for statehood, challenged by political differences between "mainlanders," who had suffered under the war and were fighting with prospectors, and "islanders" based in Whiskey Bay and Nanaimo, who had a closed-port policy to prospector vessels from the Tacoma area and had different cultural experiences postwar. At a 1898 statehood convention, Reagan served as an arbiter between the competing factions, which on the mainland favored Democrats and on Vancouver Island favored Nationalists. Instead of split the territory into two states, as was proposed, he instead agreed to appoint one Senator from each party (and thus from each region) upon statehood. After a threatened walkout by island delegates over a proposed capital in Sahalee, Reagan agreed to move the capital to Whiskey Bay to mollify islanders worried about losing influence to the more populated Fraser Valley and inland country. He also supported, as per a vote of both the legislature and constitutional committee, to allow the widely popular John Boll be reinstated as the state's first governor upon statehood.
With the constitution finished in 1898, it was submitted to the U.S. Congress for review, where it was approved in the House of Representatives with only two votes against and unanimously approved in the United States Senate. The "State of Pacifica" was to be granted official statehood on June 1, 1899.
Reagan won the 1898 election without opposition and stood ready to transfer power to his friend Boll on June 1 of 1899. Prior to statehood, the legislature gathered to select one Democratic Senator and one Nationalist. The island-based National Party offered Whiskey Bay merchant and lawyer Jebediah W. Euley, a pro-constitution member of the fractious delegation, who was unanimously approved. In turn, the Democrats offered Reagan, who was also unanimously approved. Both men were sworn into the United States Senate on June 1, 1899 upon the granting of statehood while Boll was sworn in at the temporary capitol in Whiskey Bay the same day. Boll and Reagan congratulated one another via telegram.
Reagan's first years in the Senate were unremarkable; he sponsored no major legislation and had little voice in an institution at that time dominated by the National Party. He was overwhelmingly elected by the Pacifica legislature in 1900 and 1906, as was predicted, and by the end of his first decade in office began to emerge as a critical voice in the debate on women's suffrage and labor rights. After liberal Nationalists in Pacifica passed women's suffrage there in 1908, he took to the Senate floor and gave a four-hour address in support of suffrage. President William J. Bryan, touched by Reagan's remarks, eventually joined the campaign and women gained the right to vote in 1912 - incidentally the first year that Senators were to be popularly elected as per th __th amendment.
With a popular election in Pacifica ahead of him, Reagan faced his first-ever challenge, from Nationalist Robert Dewey, the Attorney General of the state. Reagan easily dispatched him, barely campaigning.