Henry May (American politician)

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Henry May (February 13, 1816 – September 25, 1866) was a U.S. Representative from Maryland.

Henry May
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1855
Preceded byAlexander Evans
Succeeded byHenry William Hoffman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863
Preceded byHenry Winter Davis
Succeeded byFrancis Thomas
Personal details
Born(1816-02-13)February 13, 1816
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedSeptember 25, 1866(1866-09-25) (aged 50)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Resting placeCathedral Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
RelationsHermann Oelrichs (nephew)
Charles May Oelrichs (nephew)

Early lifeEdit

May was born in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1816. He was a son of Dr. Frederick May (1773–1847) and Juliana Mathilda (née Slacum) May (1793–1822). His siblings included John Frederick May, William May, Julia Matilda (née May) Oelrichs (mother of Hermann Oelrichs, Charles May Oelrichs and Lucie Oelrichs Jay), Laura (née May) Wise (the wife of Gen. George D. Wise), and Julian S. May. His father, who was born in Boston, was a physician who spent nearly the last fifty years of his life practicing in Washington.[1][2]

His paternal grandparents were Abigail (née May) May and Col. John May, who participated in the Boston Tea Party and became a prominent solider in the American Revolutionary War.[3]

He attended Columbian College (later George Washington University), also in Washington, D.C. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and commenced practice.


In 1850, May was sent by President Franklin Pierce to Mexico to investigate claims under the United States' treaty of peace with Mexico. He moved to Baltimore, Maryland. In 1852, May was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-third Congress, serving one term from March 4, 1853 to March 3, 1855. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1854 to the Thirty-fourth Congress, but was elected as a Unionist to the Thirty-seventh Congress, serving form March 4, 1861 to March 3, 1863.

May sat in the special session of Congress held in summer 1861 after the outbreak of the Civil War.[4] In September 1861 May was arrested without charges or recourse to habeas corpus on suspicion of treason and held in Fort Lafayette.[5][6] (Lincoln had unilaterally suspended habeas in Maryland in spring 1861, a move ruled unconstitutional without Congressional authorization in June 1861 by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney speaking for the federal circuit court of Maryland in ex parte Merryman, a ruling which Lincoln disregarded.) May was eventually released—no charges were ever brought or evidence produced—and returned to his seat in Congress in December 1861. In March 1862 he introduced a bill requiring the federal government to either indict by grand jury or release all other "political prisoners" held indefinitely without recourse to habeas.[7] The provisions of May's bill were included in the March 1863 Habeas Corpus Act in which Congress finally authorized Lincoln to suspend habeas corpus, but required actual indictments for suspected traitors.[8] The "political prisoners" affected included Baltimore newspaper editor, and vocal Lincoln critic, Frank Key Howard, who had been a co-prisoner with May, and was also a grand-nephew of Chief Justice Taney's wife Anne Key, (Francis Scott Key's sister).[9]

In 1862, Henry May and Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham, an anti-war Democrat, led an investigation into telegraphic censorship of the press instituted by Lincoln's Secretary of State William H. Seward in certain cities.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

On November 29, 1845 May was married to Henrietta de Courcy (1820–1919) in Chester, Maryland.[11] She was the daughter of William Henry de Courcy and Eliza Bond (née Rozier) de Courcy.[12] Together, they were the parents of:[13]

He died in Baltimore, and is interred in Cathedral Cemetery.[29] His widow died in Hove, Sussex in 1919.[30][31]


  1. ^ May, John (1873). Journal and Letters of Col. John May, of Boston: Relative to Two Journeys to the Ohio Country in 1788 and '89 ; with a Biographical Sketch. Robert Clarke & Company. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  2. ^ Columbia, Medical Society of the District of (1909). History of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia: 1817-1909. The Society. p. 218. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  3. ^ "JOHN MAY (1748-1812), 1789" (PDF). www.americanantiquarian.org. American Antiquarian Society. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  4. ^ Allan G. Bogue, "The Congressman's Civil War", Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  5. ^ The Bastille in America; or Democratic Absolutism. London: Robert Hardwicke, 1861, p. 12.
  6. ^ Mitchell, Charles W., ed. Maryland Voices of the Civil War. JHU Press, 2007, p. 237.
  7. ^ Jonathan White, "Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman", LSU Press, 2011. p. 106
  8. ^ Jonathan White, "Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman", LSU Press, 2011. p. 107
  9. ^ Howard, F. K. (Frank Key) (1863). Fourteen Months in American Bastiles. London: H.F. Mackintosh. Retrieved 18 August 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Allan G. Bogue, "The Congressman's Civil War", Cambridge University Press, 1989. p. 65
  11. ^ Cox, Nick. "17TH CENTURY PORTRAIT OF ALMERIC DE COURCY 23RD BARON KINGSALE c.1690 - CIRCLE OF GODFREY KNELLER". www.periodportraits.com. Period Portraits. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  12. ^ Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. 1905. p. 133. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  13. ^ "U.S. Legislative Branch - -May Jr, Henry - U.S. Congressman, MD | Biographies of the Civil War". civilwartalk.com. American Civil War Forums. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Frederick May". The Baltimore Sun. 27 December 1893. p. 8. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  15. ^ "DEATH OF FREDERICK MAYPassed Away at a Watering Place on the Isle of Wight". Janesville Daily Gazette. 5 September 1893. p. 2. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Death of Frederick May". Evening Star. 2 September 1893. p. 16. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  17. ^ Amory, Cleveland (1960). Who Killed Society?. Harper. pp. 190, 578. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  18. ^ O'Connor, Richard (1974). The Golden Summers: An Antic History of Newport. Putnam. pp. 92, 94–95, 340. ISBN 978-0-399-11324-6. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  20. ^ "DIED". The New York Times. 8 January 1922. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  21. ^ "John Sterett Gittings, MSA SC 3520-1546". msa.maryland.gov. Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  22. ^ District of Columbia: Concise Biographies of Its Prominent and Representative Contemporary Citizens, and Valuable Statistical Data ... Potomac Press. 1908. p. 317. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  23. ^ "GEORGE MAY DIES AT UNION MEMORIAL". The Evening Sun. 20 March 1931. p. 52. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  24. ^ "WEDDING IN BALTIMORE.; A. BECH, OF NEW-YORK. BALTIMORE, Md, Feb. 16.--An event of". The New York Times. 17 February 1887. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  25. ^ "OBITUARY". The New York Times. 18 April 1890. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  26. ^ Hendricks, William (26 February 1956). "Mrs. Babcock's Hospital For Poor a Near Reality". The San Francisco Examiner. p. 21. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  27. ^ "Bagot, Baron (GB, 1780)". www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  28. ^ "THE FUTURE LADY BAGOT". The Baltimore Sun. 13 June 1903. p. 6. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Meeting of the Bench and Bar in Reference to the Death of the late Hon. Henry May". The Baltimore Sun. 26 September 1866. p. 1. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  30. ^ "MRS. MAY'S WILL FILED". The Evening Sun. 9 July 1919. p. 22. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  31. ^ "SONS GET MAY ESTATEWill of Mother, Who Died in England, Filed For Probate". The Baltimore Sun. 10 July 1919. p. 8. Retrieved 24 March 2021.

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Alexander Evans
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Henry William Hoffman
Preceded by
Henry Winter Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Francis Thomas