Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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LAW, George, financier, born in Jackson, Washington County, New York, 25 October, 18(16; died in New York city, 18 November, 1881. He left his father's farm at the age of eighteen to seek his fortune, walked to Troy, and applied for work in vain until he saw a hod-carrier fall from a high ladder, and took the place of the disabled man. He learned the trades of mason and stone-cutter while working on a house in Hoosic, obtained employment on the Delaware and Hudson canal in 1825, superintended the making of canal-locks at High Falls, went to the York mountains of Pennsylvania to quarry stone for locks, and was employed as a mechanic on canals till June, 1829, when he obtained a contract for a small lock and aqueduct on the Delaware and Hudson canal. Though his only early education had been obtained in the winter night school, he employed all his leisure hours in study, and made himself a good engineer and draughtsman. He soon became a large contractor for the construction of railroads and canals. In August, 1837, he went to New York city, where one of his brothers was engaged in the construction of the Croton water-works. He obtained contracts for sections of the aqueduct, and in 1839 that for the High Bridge, by which it crosses Harlem river. In 1842 he undertook the management of the Dry Dock bank, and subsequently purchased and extended the Harlem and Mohawk railroads. He bought the steamer "Neptune" in 1843, built the " Oregon" in 1845, assumed the contract to carry the United States mails to California, had the " Ohio " and the " Georgia" built, and in 1849 carried the first passengers by steamship to the Isthmus of Panama. In the same year High Bridge was completed. When the Pacific mail steamship company established a competing line between New York and Chagres, Mr. Law placed an opposition line of four steamers on the Pacific. In April, 1851, the rivalry was ended by his purchasing their steamers on the Atlantic side, and selling to them his new line from Panama to San Francisco. In 1852 he acquired a large interest in the projected Panama railroad, went to the isthnms to examine the route, and located the terminus at Aspinwall, where he began to build the railroad and steamship wharf and depot. In 1852 he purchased from the inter-porators the franchise of the Eighth avenue street-railroad in New York city, and completed it within thirty days. He sold his interest in the Panama railroad in the winter of 1853. He also built the Ninth avenue road, and purchased the steam ferry to Staten island, and Grand and Roosevelt street ferries between New York city and Brooklyn. In 1852 he had a contest with the Cuban captain-general, which brought him prominently into public notice. The Spanish official was incensed because the purser of one of his vessels had published an offensive statement in a New York newspaper, and refused entrance to any vessel having him on board. The American government refused to sustain Mr. Law in his determination to send the " Crescent City" to Havana with the purser on board, and withdrew the mail when he persisted. He nevertheless despatched the steamship, and the captain-general failed to carry out his threat to fire on her. Mr. Law, who after this was called '" Live-Oak George," from a nickname bestowed on him by the workmen in his ship-yard, assailed the administration, which he accused of pusillanimity, in newspaper articles, and for his bold demonstration of American prestige he was placed in nomination in February, 1855, by the Pennsylvania legislature, as the Native American or Know-Nothing candidate for the presidency. He was supported by several journals, but the National convention in Philadelphia in 1856 chose Millard Fillmore, the president whom Law had attacked, to be the party candidate.
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