Childhood & Early Life
John D. Long was born in Buckfield, Maine, to Zadoc Long and Julia Temple Long. He attended Hebron Academy, for his primary studies and later graduated from Harvard in 1857, as a part of Phi Beta Kappa.
He used to write for a student magazine at Harvard. He also founded a private journal and maintained it for the rest of his life. He was so good at writing that he was asked to write an ode for his graduation ceremony.
After graduating, he became the headmaster of the Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts for 2 years. Later, he took admission in the Harvard Law School. He practiced law without any success in Buckfield and later went to Boston.
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After his stint with law in Boston, Long became more and more interested in politics and involved himself at the local level in Hingham in 1870. He got a spontaneous Democratic nomination for a seat in Massachusetts House of Representatives but lost.
He again got nominated by Democrats and reformist Republicans for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives but lost the election again in 1872, which convinced him to become more of a Republican.
In 1874, Long presided over the state Republican convention and won election to the state legislatures. He supported Alexander H. Rice, the successful gubernatorial candidate.
He was elected to the post of speaker in 1876 and supported Benjamin Bristow in his Republican presidential nomination, in an effort to widen his reform views. Soon after, Long won the lieutenant governor nomination.
His tenure as the governor was rather monotonous, during which he tried to bring reforms in society in his own way. During this time, he wrote a verse translation of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’.
When Long’s term as the governor ended, he was elected to the United States Congress in 1882. His time in the Congress was also without much event. He served the Congress for 6 years and administrated pensions and Navy finances, etc.
From 1889, after his tenure ended with the Congress, Long decided not to continue with it and spent the next 8 years of his life practicing private law. His main clientele was of corporate nature and was still active in the Republican Party Circles.
From 1889-1897, Long was on the committee to administer the expansion of the Massachusetts State House. But soon after his tenure with the committee ended, he was chosen to be the Secretary of the Navy by the United States Senate.
During his time as the Secretary of Navy, tension started to build between Spain and America, but Long was of the view that there would be no war. In 1898, he was compelled to make plans for a war after ‘Maine’ exploded at Havana.
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After the Spanish-American war broke out, Long oversaw Navy’s activities throughout the war. He was the one who ordered to neutralize the Spanish fleet in the Philippines, the seizure of Spanish Guam, etc.
A lot of pressure built on the navy during the war, therefore Long appointed a permanent advisory staff after the war settled, in 1900. The appointed team was to unify the work of the Office of Naval Intelligence and make war plans and preparations.
Around the same time, Long was seen as a potential vice president candidate but he failed to get the ticket as Henry Cabot Lodge did not want him to win the ticket.
In 1901, Long resigned from his position as the Secretary of the Navy and returned to Massachusetts, where he went back to practicing private law and served as president of the Puritan Trust Company. He followed this lifestyle until his death.
He published ‘The New American Navy’, a history of Spanish-American War and the role and development of American Navy in it, in 1903. He also funded the set up of a public library in Buckfield called ‘Zadoc Long Free Library’.
While Long was practicing private law in Massachusetts after his long stint with Congress, he suffered from a nervous breakdown that forced him to take a break from his legal practice.
Long was not liked by Henry Cabot Lodge, who opposed his selection as the Secretary of the Navy and he helped Theodore Roosevelt to secure the position of Assistant Secretary to make sure that Long did not spend his tenure peacefully as Roosevelt’s views over the development of the Navy were strikingly different from Long’s.