Biography and History

Lindley M. Garrison (1864-1932) was a lawyer who served as Secretary of War for President Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1916. As Secretary of War, Garrison was a key figure in developing policies to strengthen the nation’s military, and was also involved in issues related to the Philippines and Mexico.

Lindley Miller Garrison was born on November 28, 1864 in Camden, New Jersey, the son of the Reverend Joseph Fithian Garrison and Elizabeth Van Arsdale (Grant) Garrison. His brother, Charles Grant Garrison, was a justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Garrison attended the Protestant Episcopal Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy, both in Philadelphia, and then studied at Harvard University for a year as a special student. In preparation for a legal career, Garrison entered the service of the law firm Redding, Jones & Carson in Philadelphia in 1883. While still at the firm, he became a student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1886. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar that same year. Garrison married Margaret Hildeburn of Philadelphia on June 30, 1900. She died in December of 1926; they had no children.

Garrison continued working at Redding, Jones & Carson and its successor Jones & Carson until January 1888. He was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in June 1888 and began practicing law, without partners, in Camden, New Jersey. Garrison remained in Camden until January 1899, when he founded the firm of Garrison, McManus & Enright in Jersey City, New Jersey, and soon became recognized as a leader of the New Jersey Bar. He left the firm in June 1904 when he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the State, a position that corresponded to that of a supreme court justice, for a seven year term. He was the youngest Vice Chancellor ever to hold the position in New Jersey. When the term expired, he was re-appointed to serve a second term which would end in 1918.

In 1913, Garrison resigned his post as Vice Chancellor to serve as Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Woodrow Wilson. He assumed the office on March 5, 1913, the day after Wilson's inauguration. He had never served in the military, but his experience as Vice Chancellor prepared him for settling issues regarding United States dependencies, including the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Panama Canal Zone, which the Secretary of War controlled. He also had experience involving waterway problems, another aspect of the War Department.

As Secretary of War, Garrison’s main task was strengthening the nation’s defense at a time when the world was at war. Garrison drafted a plan that included a regular army of 140,000 men, a national guard of 130,000 men, and a reserve ("continental army") of 400,000 men. The continental army would serve for six years, training for two months every year for the first three years. While leading army officials approved the plan, it was opposed by the House Military Affairs Committee, which believed the public would not support it, and instead proposed partially federalizing the National Guard to provide the army reserve. Garrison deemed this plan to be ineffectual, but Wilson would not oppose it. Faced with irreconcilable differences with Wilson on the method for increasing the nation’s military strength, as well as objecting to Wilson’s plan to set a definite time for granting independence to the Philippines, Garrison resigned on February 11, 1916. In addition to his work on developing the country’s military strength, Garrison had also started a system of military training camps for college students, been involved in writing a bill to grant practical autonomy to the Philippines, and sent a large contingent of the army to patrol the Mexican border to protect Americans during a period of Mexican civil war following the assassination of their president, Francisco I. Madero, by conservative general Victoriano Huerta.

Following his resignation, Garrison returned to the practice of law, joining the New York firm of Hornblower, Miller, Potter & Earle, later Hornblower, Miller & Garrison. His most prominent work while with this firm was serving as receiver of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, later reorganized into B.M.T. Garrison was appointed to the position by Federal Judge Julius M. Mayer on December 31, 1918 to restore the company to profitability. His work was complicated by a strike of a portion of the labor force and conflicts with Mayor Hylan, but by 1923, B.R.T. had recovered, with increased traffic and earnings. Judge Mayer ended the receivership on June 14, 1923.

Garrison retired from the law firm on January 1, 1930. Hornblower, Miller & Garrison then joined the firm headed by former Governor Nathan L. Miller (Miller, Otis & Farr), and became Hornblower, Miller, Miller & Boston. Garrison died on October 18, 1932.

Source: From the finding aid for MC060