Columbus Delano, (June 4, 1809 – October 23, 1896) was a lawyer, rancher, banker, statesman and a member of the prominent Delano family. Delano was elected U.S. Congressman from Ohio, serving two full terms and one partial one. Prior to the American Civil War, Delano was a National Republican and then a Whig; as a Whig he was identified with the faction of the party that opposed the spread of slavery into the Western territories, and he became a Republican when the party was founded as the major anti-slavery party after the demise of the Whigs in the 1850s. During Reconstruction Delano advocated federal protection of African-Americans civil rights, and argued that the former Confederate states should be administered by the federal government, but were not part of the United States until they met the requirements for readmission to the Union. Delano served as President Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of the Interior during a time of rapid Westward expansionism, and contended with conflicts between Native American tribes and American settlers. He was instrumental in the establishment of America's first national park, supervising the first U.S. federally funded exploratory scientific expedition into Yellowstone in 1871, and becoming America's first national park overseer in 1872. In 1874, Delano requested that Congress protect Yellowstone through creation of a federally funded administrative agency, the first Secretary of the Interior to request such preservation of a nationally important site.
Believing that tribal communalism and a nomadic lifestyle led to Indian wars and impoverishment, Delano argued the best Indian policy was to allot Native American tribes small reservations in the Indian Territory. In Delano's view the reservation system humanely protected Native Americans from the encroachment of western settlers, and would aid in Indian assimilation into white culture and independence from federal funding. To compel the Native Americans of the west to move to reservations, Delano supported the slaughter to near extinction of the vast buffalo herds, which were essential to the maintenance of the Plains Indians' lifestyle. In the area of government reform, Delano opposed Grant's 1872 executive order to implement the recommendations of the first Civil Service Commission. Profiteering and corruption permeated the Interior Department during his tenure, and Grant requested Delano's resignation in 1875; he left office with damage to his reputation for personal honesty. Delano returned to Ohio to practice law, tend to his business interests, and raise livestock; he did not return to politics, and died in 1896. Historians are critical of Delano's tenure at the Interior Department, arguing that he could have done more to stop corruption, protect bison, and prevent the destruction of the culture of the Plains Indians.
Early life, education, and political career
Columbus Delano was born in Shoreham, Vermont on June 5, 1809, the son of James Delano and Lucinda Bateman. The Delano family was of French ancestry; its first representative in America, Philip Delano, voyaged from Holland in 1621 on the Fortune, the sister ship of the Mayflower. In 1815, Delano's father died, and his family was put under the care of his uncle Luther Bateman. In 1817 the family moved to Mount Vernon in Knox County, Ohio, where Delano resided for the rest of his life. Delano was raised primarily by Luther Bateman, and after an elementary education he labored in a woolen mill and at other jobs, becoming largely self-sufficient while still a teenager.
After beginning self-directed legal studies, Delano formally trained with Mount Vernon attorney Hosmer Curtis from 1830 to 1831, and attained admission to the bar in 1831. Delano became active politics as a National Republican, and later as a Whig, and in 1834 he won election as prosecuting attorney for Knox County. He won reelection in 1836 and served two terms, 1835 to 1839.
Marriage and family
On July 14, 1834, Delano married Elizabeth Leavenworth of Mount Vernon, the daughter of M. Martin Leavenworth and Clara Sherman Leavenworth. They were the parents of one child who lived to adulthood, Elizabeth, who was the wife of Reverend John G. Ames of Washington, DC.
Delano and Ulysses S. Grant were distant cousins; they had great-great grandparents in common.
United States Representative (1845-47)
In 1844, Delano was elected to the United States House of Representatives after appearing on the ballot as a replacement for Samuel White, Jr., who had died after winning the Whig nomination. He went on to defeat Democrat Caleb J. McNulty by only 12 votes, 9,297 to 9,285. Delano served in the 29th Congress, (March 4, 1845—March 3, 1847), and was a member of the Committee on Invalid Pensions. He also gave a speech denouncing the Mexican–American War which earned him national recognition as an opponent of the conflict. Delano did not run for reelection in 1846, instead campaigning for the 1848 Whig nomination for Governor of Ohio. He lost to Seabury Ford by two votes at the January 1848 party convention; Ford went on to defeat Democrat John B. Weller in a close general election, and served one term. Delano subsequently became involved in several business ventures; in 1850 he set up a successful Wall Street banking partnership, Delano, Dunlevy, & Company, which specialized in railroad bonds; it included a branch office in Cincinnati and operated for five years. In addition, Delano became a successful sheep rancher, and served as president of the National Association of Wool Growers and the Ohio Wool Growers Association. He was also active in other businesses; he was president of the Springfield, Mount Vernon & Pittsburgh Railroad, and an original incorporator of the First National Bank of Mount Vernon, of which he later became president.
Joined Republican Party
With the demise of the Whigs, Columbus Delano joined the new Republican Party. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860, and supported Abraham Lincoln's nomination for President. The following year he served as commissary general on the staff of Governor William Dennison Jr., and aided in raising and equipping troops for the Union Army at the start of the American Civil War. In 1862 Delano was a candidate for the United States Senate seat held by Benjamin Wade. With Republicans in control of the Ohio General Assembly, winning their nomination was tantamount to election by the full legislature. Delano was nearly successful, losing the nomination to Wade by only two votes. In 1863, Delano served in the Ohio House of Representatives, and played a notable role in shepherding to passage legislation in support of the Union war effort.
Return to Congress
Delano was again elected to the U.S. House in 1864, and he served in the 39th Congress (March 4, 1865—March 3, 1867). During this term, Delano was Chairman of the House Committee on Claims. Delano appeared to lose his bid for reelection in 1866, but successfully contested the election of George W. Morgan. After unseating Morgan, Delano served for the remainder of the 40th Congress, June 3, 1868—March 3, 1869. After the Civil War Delano supported Radical Reconstruction, believing that the South was in chaos and that federal involvement in the Southern states, including the Army, was necessary to keep peace. He did not run for reelection in 1868.
Reconstruction speech (1867)
In September 1867, Delano made a speech on Reconstruction in Eaton, Ohio, in which he said that President Andrew Johnson did not have constitutional authority to establish civil government in the former Confederate states. Delano argued that Congress, not the president, "was required to establish civil governments in all the states." In Delano's view, Johnson and Southern Democrats, who had previously supported the Confederacy, were conspiring to overthrow Congress by undermining its authority to make laws concerning Southern Reconstruction. As proof, Delano cited Johnson's September 1866 Swing Around the Circle speech, in which Johnson said the national legislature was a "pretended Congress". In addition, Delano believed Johnson was conspiring to remove Ulysses S. Grant as head of the Army because of Grant's support for Congressional Reconstruction. As a result, Delano advocated impeaching Johnson and removing him from office, and argued that Grant should be protected by Congress from any attempt by Johnson to remove him.
Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Delano remained active in politics and supported Grant for president in 1868. When Grant became president in March 1869, he appointed Delano Commissioner of Internal Revenue; Delano served from March 11, 1869 to October 31, 1870. As commissioner, Delano tried with mixed success to collect federal revenue on alcohol and tobacco products manufactured in Indian Territory; these items could be produced for sale tax-free within the territory, but manufacturers routinely sold them in adjacent states without paying the taxes. He also proved unwilling or unable to cope with the frauds of the Whiskey Ring; despite having received warnings of corruption including bribery of federal officials and failure to pay taxes, Delano took little or no action. The department did attempt to prevent the illegal manufacture and sale of whiskey in other areas; on January 31, 1870 an Internal Revenue raid in Georgia captured 18 illicit whiskey stills and their operators. The Whiskey Ring was finally stopped in 1875 during Grant's second term by Secretary of Treasury Benjamin Bristow. The ring leader, John McDonald had received a political appointment as superintending inspector of internal revenue in St. Louis; he had been recommended to Delano by several prominent residents of Missouri, and in turn Delano had recommended him to Grant. McDonald was convicted of fraud and theft, and served 17 months in prison. In all, the investigation of the Whiskey Ring resulted in 110 convictions. Grant's private secretary, Orville E. Babcock was implicated, but acquitted at trial after Grant provided written testimony on his behalf. Additionally, Delano was cleared of involvement in another scandal in which Babcock was implicated, the Gold Ring, which was triggered when two New York financiers attempted to corner the gold market on September 24, 1869. Daniel Butterfield, the Assistant Treasurer of the United States, and Grant's brother in law Abel Corbin were also implicated; Butterfield was forced to resign in October. Delano's reputation for personal honesty was not in question, which was an asset when Grant needed to nominate a new Secretary of the Interior in 1870.
Secretary of the Interior
United States Attorney General Ebenezer R. Hoar and Secretary of the Interior Jacob D. Cox resigned in 1870 because of Grant's decision to overrule them on the issue of the McGarrahan Claims; speculator William McGarrahan claimed title to a tract of mining land in California, as did the New Idria Mining Company. Grant wanted no executive branch action taken, considering both claims to be fraudulent; Cox and Hoar disagreed and decided in favor of New Idria, which prompted Grant to request their resignations.
Grant appointed Delano to succeed Cox at the Interior Department; he served from November 1, 1870 until resigning on October 19, 1875. During Delano's tenure, the Interior Department was the largest bureaucracy in the federal government, including numerous patronage positions. Running the department required knowledge of dissimilar duties, and the ability to master complex details. During Delano's time as Secretary, he faced several critical issues and his department was rapidly expanding; despite the challenges he served longer in the job than any other 19th-century incumbent.
Bison slaughter (1870s)
During the Civil War, Union generals practiced a "scorched earth" campaign against Confederate infrastructure that destroyed its vital food supplies, which aided in bring about the Union's victory. During the late 1860s and early 1870s U.S. Army officers William T. Sherman, Richard Dodge, and Secretary of the Interior Delano adopted a similar strategy against Native Americans in the west, whose primary food supply was free roaming bison. Dodge said in 1867, "Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone." Delano said in an 1872 annual report, "The rapid disappearance of game [bison] from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs." Much of the destruction of bison was done by private, for profit buffalo hunters; this policy allowed the slaughter of millions of bison on the American plains, forcing Indians to move to and remain on their reservations. The few free roaming bison left in Yellowstone were protected from poaching by a federal law passed in 1872; during Delano's tenure, mounting criticism by the public forced Congress to pass legislation that would stop the bison slaughter on the plains. Grant vetoed the legislation in 1874, accepting that the bison slaughter was accomplishing the goal of pacifying the Indians. From 1872 to 1874 the Indians killed approximately 1,215,000 bison as part of providing for their food, shelter, and other basic needs; American hunters slaughtered an estimated 4,374,000 bison, reducing the population to the point that it could not reproduce normally and continue to sustain the Indians.
Apache massacre and peace (1871-1872)
On April 30, 1871 white Tucson townspeople organized a militia which massacred an Apache Indian settlement at Camp Grant. Approximately 144 Apaches were killed, mostly women and children. Twenty-eight children were kidnapped by the Tucson townspeople and held as ransom for the Apache warriors. The people of Tucson drew national attention by the scale of their activity, resulting in Eastern philanthropists and President Grant denouncing their actions. Arizona citizens, however, believed the killings were justified and claimed that Apache warriors had killed mail runners and settlers near Tucson. President Grant sent Major General George Crook to keep the peace in Arizona; many Apaches had joined the U.S. military for protection. On November 10, 1871 Delano advocated to Grant that Apaches be given new reservation land in Arizona and New Mexico, following the recommendation of Indian Peace Commissioner Vincent Colyer to find them a location where they could be protected from attacks by white settlers. Delano advocated that all Apaches be put on reservations including young men and warriors, who were forming raiding parties, rather than just their old men and women. Grant sent Major General Oliver Otis Howard to Arizona to help resolve the issue; Howard organized a peace conference with Apache leader Eskiminzin in May 1872 at Camp Grant. Howard also negotiated the release of six of the captive Apache children. In December 1872, the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, a permanent settlement, was established at the junction of the San Carlos and Gila Rivers, the location having been agreed upon by Howard and Eskiminzin. In October 1872, Howard also made a separate peace treaty with the Apache leader Cochise, who settled on the Chiricahua reservation.
Akerman feud (1871)
In June 1871 Grant's Attorney General Amos T. Akerman denied land and bond grants to the Union Pacific Railroad, a company connected to the Crédit Mobilier. Ackerman's anti-railroad rulings were protested by railroad financiers Collis P. Huntington and Jay Gould. Akerman was also instrumental in prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan in the South and protecting African American civil rights. Railroad interests and African-American civil rights had been priorities for the Republican Party; on behalf of Huntington and Gould, Delano twice asked Akerman to change rulings that had gone against the Union Pacific, and both times Akerman refused. Delano then complained to Grant and suggested that Akerman should be removed. Grant agreed, and named former Oregon Senator George H. Williams as Akerman's replacement; Williams was seen as more favorable to railroad interests. On the issue of curtailing the Klan prosecutions, according to historian William S. McFeely, "[w]ith Akerman's departure on January 10, 1872, went any hope that the Republican party would develop as a national party of true racial equality."
In 1871, Delano organized America's first federally funded scientific expedition into Yellowstone, which was headed by U.S. Geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden. Delano gave specific instructions for Hayden to make a geographical map of the area and to make astronomical and barometric observations. Delano stated that Hayden's expedition was directed to "…secure as much information as possible, both scientific and practical…give your attention to the geological, mineralogical, zoological, botanical, and agricultural resources of the country." Delano also ordered Hayden to gather information on Native American tribes who lived in the area. Hayden's expedition was outfitted by an extensive scientific team that included two botanists, a meteorologist, a zoologist, an ornithologist, a mineralogist, a topographer, an artist, a photographer, a physician, hunters, mule teams and ambulances, and a support staff.
On March 1, 1872 Ulysses S. Grant signed the Organic Act, incorporating Hayden's findings and discoveries and creating Yellowstone as America's first national park. The law provided that the Secretary of the Interior exercise "exclusive control" over Yellowstone; As Delano was the incumbent, this made him the first overseer of the first national park in the world. The poaching of fish and wildlife, including bison, was forbidden, and Delano was authorized to preserve the "natural curiosities and wonders" found inside the park. Delano was now in charge of millions of acres of land, however, he was not provided any funding to care for it. Instead, he was given the power to grant 10 year leases in order to raise money to pay for maintaining the park. As soon as the park was created, Delano was inundated by requests for hotel concessions, and he also had to determine the control and use of existing facilities in the park's northern section. Delano appointed N. P. Langford the first Supervisor of Yellowstone in 1872; Langford banned private toll roads and submitted a plan to build and maintain a park road system free to the public, but Congress refused to fund it. Congress also refused to give Langford a stipend, so he had to supplement his livelihood by working as a banker. In 1874 Lanford requested that Delano petition Congress for appropriations to protect the park from poachers, unlicensed privateers, and trespassers. Delano agreed and demanded Congress appropriate $100,000 to set up a federal park agency to administer and protect the park for the public, and also asked for an increase in the terms of the concession leases from 10 to 20 years. The proposal was turned down; it was not until April 1877, during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration, that Congress appropriated one tenth of Delano's request, $10,000, without any federal protection agency for the park.
Civil Service reform (1872)
When Grant ordered Civil Service reform in 1872, Delano refused to implement the Civil Service Commission's recommendations. Under Article 12 of Grant's executive order, Land Office and Pension agent applicants in the Department of Interior were to be approved by a board of examiners. With the Interior Department's varied and diverse responsibilities increasing at a rapid rate, it had become a place with numerous administrative problems. For the department head, controlling the bureaus and shaping policy was a daunting task; Delano argued that the complexities of the department made implementing civil service reform impractical. During his tenure corruption came to permeate the Department, including bogus agents in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and thieving clerks in the Patent Office. Delano ultimately resigned because of evidence that surveying contracts had been awarded to companies in which his son John, the chief clerk of the department, and Orvil (or Orville) Grant, the president's brother, had ownership interests; this was more or less permissible by the standards of the day, but to reform-minded individuals, including the editors of the New-York Tribune and other newspapers, it represented a conflict of interest and breach of the public trust.
Supported Ku Klux Klan prosecutions (1872)
To bolster the Reconstruction Acts and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth constitutional amendments, Grant signed in 1870 Congressional legislation that created the Justice Department. To fight the outrages in the South by the Ku Klux Klan, Grant signed several laws known as the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871. In May 1871, Grant ordered federal troops to help U.S. Marshals in arresting Klansmen. Grant's second Attorney General Amos T. Akerman, a former Confederate soldier, knew of the outrages of the Klan and was zealous in prosecuting white Southerners who terrorized their black neighbors. That October, on Akerman's recommendation, Grant suspended habeas corpus in part of South Carolina and sent federal troops there to enforce the law. After prosecutions by Akerman and his replacement, George Henry Williams, the Klan's power collapsed; by 1872, elections in the South saw African Americans voting in record numbers.
In a campaign speech supporting President Grant's reelection bid in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 24, 1872 Delano spoke out in favor of prosecutions of the Ku Klux Klan. Delano argued that the Congressional Reconstruction Acts had been passed to "rescue order and government out of the chaos and confusion" that came from the Civil War. This included the enfranchisement of African Americans, most of them former slaves, who had been set "forever free" as a result of the war. Delano stated that if freedom meant anything it was that African Americans "should stand equal before the law and have a voice in legislation." According to Delano, southerners who rejected Republican Reconstruction, opted for a subversive war against African Americans and white Republicans, including formation of the Ku Klux Klan. Delano said the Ku Klux Klan had in fourteen North Carolina counties killed 18 people and cruelly whipped 315 Republicans who had done nothing wrong. Delano said that evidence presented in prosecuting Klan members in the federal courts proved the "barbarity and treason" of the Ku Klux Klan. Grant ended up winning North Carolina and many other Southern states.
Defined Indian policy (1873)
In 1873, Delano formally defined the methods to be used in attaining the goals of Grant's policy toward the Native Americans. Grant's ultimate goal was to convert the Indians to Christianity and assimilate them into white culture in order to prepare them for full U.S. Citizenship; these fundamental principles continued to influence Indian Peace policy for the rest of the 19th Century. According to Delano, relocating the Indians to reservations was of primary importance, since this would supposedly protect them from the violence of white settlers as whites moved onto lands previously held by Native Americans. In addition, Christian organizations and missionaries operating on these reservations could "civilize" the Native Americans, in line with the widespread belief (including Delano's) that allowing the Indians continuing to practice their own culture would lead to their destruction. In Delano's view, his actions would accomplish Grant's goal by facilitating Indian assimilation into white culture.
Black Hills negotiations (1875)
In mid-May 1875, Red Cloud, Chief of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), and other Indian tribal leaders were brought to Washington D.C. to negotiate the sale of the Black Hills. Rumors had spread throughout the country in 1874 of gold being discovered by George Custer's recent expedition, and the country was desperate for new wealth following the Panic of 1873. Grant sent the expedition, hoping to find gold in order to support his specie currency policy; Delano opposed the move, believing travel through and eventual occupation of hunting grounds violated the Treaty of Fort Laramie and could lead to an Indian war. Delano told Grant that a "general war with the Sioux would be deplorable. It would undo the good already accomplished by our efforts for peaceable relations."
Whites immediately flocked to the area in search of gold; in 1875, Congress appropriated $25,000 for purchase of the Black Hills, hoping that a cash payment would assuage the Sioux and prevent war. The Sioux believed the amount offered was too low; recognizing that they would eventually lose the Black Hills, Red Cloud decided to negotiate, and told Delano they would sign away the Black Hills if $25,000 in cash was first drawn from the Treasury Department, to ensure that the Sioux would be paid. Delano had no intention of giving Red Cloud cash, but rather a receipt for $25,000 from the Treasury and additional presents purchased at a later date and distributed to members of the tribe. Red Cloud insisted that he wanted the $25,000 in cash at the signing, which would be taken home and divided among the members of the tribe.
Delano warned Grant that a war would likely break out if negotiations were not successful. When negotiations broke down, Grant was brought into the process to bargain directly with Red Cloud. Grant told Red Cloud that the Black Hills had no buffalo, so it would benefit the Indians to accept payment, because they would at least receive something of value in consideration for signing away valueless hunting rights. He also informed Red Cloud that whites were going to take over the Black Hills anyway, so it would be best not to leave empty-handed. Concerned that they would not be paid if they signed an agreement first, Red Cloud asked Grant to withdraw the money from the Treasury, and hold it until after the signing. Grant refused and walked out, telling Red Cloud he had to sign over the Black Hills before any payment was made. On June 4, Delano offered Red Cloud an additional $25,000 in appropriations, but Red Cloud refused.
With Red Cloud's refusal, Delano reluctantly let the Indians take the unsigned agreement back to their tribal agencies for further discussion among the members of the tribe, with final terms and signatures to be negotiated later by an appointed commission. The failure of the Washington, D.C. negotiations to produce an agreement was lampooned in the June 19 edition of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Upon their return to Sioux country, Red Cloud and other Lakota leaders finally signed away their hunting rights to the Black Hills under Article 11 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in exchange for the original $25,000 Congressional appropriation. Another group of Sioux chiefs, including Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, challenged Red Cloud's authority and started the armed resistance about which Delano had warned Grant. This challenge to Red Cloud's authority combined with Lakota unhappiness over white encroachment into the Black Hills resulted in the Great Sioux War, which started in February 1876.
Resignation and corruption (1875)
In 1875, Delano's reputation for personal honesty came under increasing scrutiny as revelations of corruption in the Grant administration continued to be the subject of investigations and media revelations. Westerners unhappy with Delano's rulings on land grants and other issues accused Delano's son John, an employee of the Interior Department, of corruption, bribery, and fraud. Governor Edward M. McCook of the Colorado Territory, claimed that John Delano had accepted a $1,200 bribe from a Colorado banker, Jerome B. Chaffee, to secure land patents from the Department of Interior.
The New-York Tribune reported that John Delano was profiteering through Interior's Office of the Surveyor General by accepting partnerships in Wyoming surveying contracts without having been trained in surveying or map making, and without providing any meaningful contribution to the fulfillment of the contracts; the obvious implication was John Delano had taken extortion money from illicit contract agreements. In March 1875, the former chief clerk of the Surveyor's Office, L. C. Stevens, wrote to Benjamin Bristow, Grant's Secretary of Treasury, stating that Surveyor General Silas Reed had made several corrupt contracts which financially benefited John Delano. Stevens also said both Reed and John Delano had blackmailed five deputy surveyors for $5,000. More damaging was Stevens' charge that Columbus Delano knew and approved of what Reed had done for John Delano.
Both Bristow and Secretary of State Hamilton Fish demanded that Grant fire Delano. Grant declined, telling Fish, "If Delano were now to resign, it would be retreating under fire and be accepted as an admission of the charges." The controversy did not abate; by mid-August it became clear that Delano could not remain in office; Delano offered his resignation and Grant accepted, but Grant did not make it public. Grant finally announced his acceptance of Delano's resignation on October 19, 1875, after Bristow threatened to resign if Delano was not replaced. Grant replaced Delano with Zachariah Chandler, who quickly initiated civil service and other reforms in the Department of the Interior. Delano's administration was investigated by Congress, Chandler, and a special presidential commission; his personal conduct was exonerated, but his reputation as an honest, capable administrator was damaged, and Delano never again ran for office or served in an appointed one. In April 1876, The Committee on the Expeditures in the Interior Department confirmed that Reed had set up an illicit slush fund for John Delano's financial benefit, and that Delano thanked Reed while also telling him "to be careful to do nothing that would have the semblance of wrong."
On September 26, 1875, Delano submitted to Grant a letter defending his tenure at the Department of the Interior; in essence, he argued that the size and complexity of his department made it difficult to manage effectively. Delano stated that he had resigned because he intended to return to his business and domestic concerns in Ohio. He indicated that his duties as Secretary of the Interior were "laborious, difficult, and delicate" because he was required to supervise five disparate bureaus or offices: Land; Indian; Pensions; Patent; and Education, in addition to "a mass of miscellaneous business unknown to any except those connected to the public service."
Delano also reminded Grant that the Land Office dealt with complex railroad land grants, as well as issues resolving land titles in California, Arizona and New Mexico, because those areas had previously been under Spain's and then Mexico's jurisdiction. In addition, the Indian Bureau dealt with many "intricate, delicate, and vexatious questions" growing out of previous Indian treaties. Delano further informed Grant that when he had to decide issues between competing claimants, those he ruled against often gave false and misleading statements rather than accept their loss, which was to Delano's detriment. Delano concluded by claiming a successful tenure, informing Grant that the Interior Department "has never been in a more prosperous or better condition then it now is."
Delano's successor, Zachariah Chandler immediately investigated allegations of corruption. During his first month in office, he fired all the clerks in one room of the Patent Office; he noted that every desk was vacant, and concluded that the employees were either involved in corruption or lacked the integrity to reform the department. Almost twenty employees were found to be entirely fictitious; they had been created by a profiteering ring to defraud the government by falsely receiving pay for work that was not performed. Chandler also fired unqualified clerks who profiteered by hiring out their work to lower paid replacements and pocketing the salary difference.
In addition, Chandler simplified Patent Office rules, making patents easier to obtain and reducing the cost for applicants. In December 1875, Chandler banned persons known as "Indian Attorneys", whose claims to represent Native Americans in Washington were questionable. He found the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be the most corrupt, and he replaced its commissioner and chief clerk. In addition to Indian Affairs, Chandler also investigated the Pension Bureau. This review resulted in identification and removal of numerous fraudulent pensions, which saved the federal government hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chandler also revoked as many as 800 fraudulent land grants that had been approved during Delano's tenure.
Later life and career
On his resignation from Grant's cabinet, Delano returned to Mount Vernon where for the next twenty years he served as president of the First National Bank of Mount Vernon. He was a longtime trustee of Kenyon College, which awarded him the honorary degree of LL.D.; among his charitable and civic donations was his endowment of Kenyon's Delano Hall; this building was in use until it was destroyed by a fire in 1906. His Lakeholm mansion, built in 1871 at the outskirts of Mount Vernon, is now part of Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
On April 3, 1880, John W. Wright, a judge from Indiana, was convicted at trial of having assaulted Delano on a Washington, D.C. street corner on October 12, 1877. Wright, who had been an Indian Agent in the Interior Department while Delano was Secretary, had been convicted of fraud, and blamed Delano. On the day of the assault he was in the company of Walter H. Smith, formerly Solicitor of the Department of the Interior; Wright was accused of provoking a fight by questioning Delano's honesty as Secretary of the Interior, and then striking Delano with his walking stick. Wright claimed that Delano had been verbally harassing him, and that he then felt compelled to defend himself. Delano did not sustain serious injuries; Wright's defense was weakened by testimony that after the assault, he claimed credit for it, and stated that he would have continued if passers-by had not intervened. Wright was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,000. On April 8, 1880 President Rutherford B. Hayes pardoned Wright, with his release from custody conditional upon payment of the fine.
On December 3, 1889 Delano was elected President of the National Wool Growers Association, a lobbying group organized to advocate for tariff protection of the national wool industry. The association had been formed in 1865, and became more active in the 1880s as a response to the decline in domestic wool production; wool growers faced increasing overseas competition, and had gone from 50 million sheep producing wool in 1883 to 40 million in 1888.
Delano died in Mount Vernon on October 23, 1896; he was interred at Mount Vernon's Mound View Cemetery, Lot 42, Section 16, Grave 4.
Historians are critical of Delano's overall tenure as Secretary of the Interior especially for his loose administrative style and for allowing corruption to permeate the department. The corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs under Delano eventually led to the end of political appointees, the appointment of career civil servants, and the bureaucratization of the agency. Delano defended his reputation by saying that the Interior Department was difficult to manage due to its expanding size and its many offices with disparate functions.
Delano has also received criticism for allowing millions of bison to be slaughtered in order to compel the Indians to move to and remain on their reservations, a policy approved by President Grant and the U.S. Army. The demise of the bison herds during Delano's tenure led to the destruction of the Plains Indian culture, including their economy, cosmology, and religion. Without the bison, the Plains Indians could not resist late 19th Century expansionism, including the development of the railroads in the American west. This policy led to more restrictive measures against Native Americans in the 1880s and 1890s, including the banning of medicine making, polygamy, bride payments, and the Sun Dance.
Delano was the first Secretary of the Interior to be in charge of Yellowstone, America's first national park. The charges of misconduct and lax management made during Delano's tenure at Interior did not include the new park, the management of which was seen as a success. Among its features, it outlawed poaching wildlife and served as a haven for small numbers of free roaming bison left after the slaughter of the great herds. In 1916, Congress created the National Park Service to federally protect and administer Yellowstone and other national parks; Delano had proposed creation of the agency in 1874. Yellowstone today generates around 4 million visitors per year.
In 1898, historian Joseph Patterson Smith said Delano had attained, "a long and distinguished career, as an eminent lawyer, an able businessman and one intimately identified with the governmental affairs of the state and nation." In 2001, historian Jean Edward Smith, taking a harsher view, said Delano betrayed his public trust while Secretary of the Interior by allowing corruption to pervade throughout his department, "at the expense of those who most needed government assistance: the Native American."