Anthony Astley Cooper Rogers (1821–1899)
Anthony Astley Cooper Rogers was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Second District of Arkansas in the Forty-First Congress, serving from 1869 to 1871.
Anthony Rogers was born on February 14, 1821, in Clarksville, Tennessee. He received only minimal formal education and worked as a clerk in a dry-goods store from age fifteen to twenty-two. Looking for new opportunities, Rogers relocated to Arkansas in 1854, apparently settling in the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) area, where he bought land and slaves and joined the ranks of planters. With the possibility of civil war on the horizon, and supported by pro-Union forces, Rogers sought election as a delegate to the state secession convention in 1861. Although he was defeated by a pro-secession candidate, he continued to express his pro-Union views. Indeed, after the state’s decision to secede, Rogers was arrested for opposing the government and was imprisoned. Ultimately, he was forced to give a bond in response to charges that he had committed “treason against the Confederate government,” but that did not stop him from being an early advocate of Arkansas rejoining the Union.
Believing that the secession effort could not succeed, Rogers emerged as a political lightning rod. Opponents labeled him a “Copperhead,” a reference to the Northern Democrats who opposed the war, while the anti-secession, pro-Union forces pushed Rogers as a candidate for military governor of Arkansas as the Union forces gained control of the state. In fact, as early as 1863, Rogers was active in efforts to get the state back into the Union. His allies in that effort were the driving force behind the administration of the 1864 election in which Rogers was technically elected to serve in the House of Representatives in the Thirty-Eighth Congress. However, because Arkansas had not yet been readmitted to the Union, he was prevented from assuming the seat.
Soon afterward, seeking to escape the tumult that characterized the early stages of Reconstruction in Arkansas, Rogers moved to Chicago, Illinois. He worked in real estate while keeping a watchful eye on the political landscape back in Arkansas. With the military enforcing order and the political make-up of the region uncertain, Rogers returned in 1868 and again sought election to the House of Representatives. He was a founding member of the Conservative (Democratic) Party, and running as the “people’s candidate,” Rogers sought to oust incumbent James Elliott, a businessman and the president of the Mississippi, Ouachita and Red River Railroad; Elliott had won a special election to replace murdered congressman James Hinds. Rogers achieved a solid victory, winning fifty-five percent of the vote. However, his prewar views, coupled with his time in Chicago, left him labeled a “scalawag,” and as he headed to Washington DC, he was a political outsider in the state. Indeed, so tumultuous were the politics of postwar Arkansas that his return from the North obscured his previous Southern ties, leading one paper to label him a “carpetbagger,” and claiming that he still resided in Chicago, not Arkansas.
Rogers assumed his seat in March 1869 and served on the Committee on Education and Labor as well as the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions. However, his time in Congress proved to be short-lived. As a member of the ultimate minority, a Southern Democrat in the early, Republican-dominated Reconstruction Congress, Rogers had little influence. While he did serve as a member of the Democratic Party’s House Congressional Campaign Committee, his effort to win reelection in 1870 failed when he received only approximately forty percent of the vote.
Rogers served as the postmaster at Pine Bluff from January 1881 until July 1885 while also engaging in a variety of business activities. In 1888, Rogers moved to Los Angeles, California. He died there on July 27, 1899, and is interred in the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.
For additional information:
“Anthony Astley Cooper Rogers.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=R000388 (accessed September 28, 2021).
Baggett, James Alex. The Scalawags: Southern Dissenters in the Civil War And Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.
“In General.” Boston Daily Advertiser, March 12, 1869, p. 1.
William H. Pruden III
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