"McClellan, George Brinton (November 23, 1865 - November 30, 1940), politician and university professor, was the older of two children and the only son of General George Brinton McClellan and Mary Ellen (Marcy) McClellan. Born in Dresden, Saxony, while his parents were visiting Europe, he belonged to a family whose Scottish forebears had emigrated to New England in the eighteenth century. His grandfather, Dr. George McClellan, was a prominent Philadelphia anatomist and surgeon; his father was the most controversial, if not most effective, Union general in the Civil War. His maternal grandfather, Randolph B. Marcy, was a regular army officer who served as General McClellan's chief of staff from 1861 to 1863.
McClellan's boyhood was spent in New York City, Baltimore, Trenton, New Jersey), and Europe. His early education was entrusted in large part to governesses and tutors, but in 1877 he was sent to St. John's, a boarding school at Sing Sing (later Ossining), New York. In 1882 he entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Following his graduation, in 1886, he traveled abroad for two years. Returning to the United States, he became a newspaper reporter, working successively for the New York Morning Journal, World, and Herald. Despite the demands of newspaper work, he found time to attend the New York Law School, and in 1892 he was admitted to the bar.
McClellan's political career began in 1889 with his appointment as treasurer of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. In the same year he joined Tammany Hall, and by the mid-nineties he was a sachem and one of the organization's most prominent orators. In 1892 he was elected to the presidency of the New York City board of aldermen, and in 1895 he began the first of five terms as a Democratic Congressman. In the House of Representatives he became something of an authority on military affairs, was recognized as a better than average speaker, supported his party's stand on low tariffs and anti-imperialism, and was a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Although McClellan was a man of considerable ability and even distinction, his rapid rise in politics was due almost entirely to Tammany's desire to capitalize on his famous name. For his part, McClellan assured Richard Croker, Tammany's boss in the nineties: "I know that I owe . . . to you . . . everything . . . that I have in politics."
McClellan's career in Congress ended in 1903, when he was recalled to New York by Charles F. Murphy, who had succeeded Croker as boss of Tammany Hall, to run for mayor against Seth Low, the Republican incumbent. He defeated Low with relative ease; two years later he was reelected to a four-year term over William Randolph Hearst, who ran on the ticket of the Municipal Ownership party, and William M. Ivins, the Republican candidate, in one of the closest elections in the city's history. In his first term McClellan was a superior machine mayor who, while making no pretense of being a reformer, was able to keep a restraining hand on the more avaricious members of the organization. Following the election of 1905 he broke with Murphy in a dispute over patronage, and his second term was characterized by a pronounced independence.
Among McClellan's notable accomplishments as mayor was a program of public works that included new bridges across the East River, establishment of municipal ferries, creation of a new and improved system of docks, additional parks and playgrounds, extension of the city's subway facilities, the start of the Catskill water project, and construction of the city's Municipal Building. As mayor, McClellan proved to be an efficient and imaginative administrator, with a wide knowledge of city affairs and an unchallenged reputation for integrity. Even his Republican critics conceded that his intellect and courteous manner gave the office a distinction that it had never known under other Tammany mayors.
When McClellan left City Hall at the end of 1909 his break with Murphy had already precluded whatever chances he might have had for political preferment. For a year he practised law in New York City, but the experience was not a happy one, and in 1911 he welcomed the opportunity to become a university lecturer on public affairs at Princeton. A year later Princeton appointed him professor of economic history. At the outbreak of the first World War he aroused considerable opposition by his outspoken demands for the strictest interpretation of American neutrality. The Heel of War, a collection of essays on conditions in the belligerent countries which he published in 1916, was condemned by most reviewers for what they considered its pro-German bias. Nevertheless, when the United States entered the war McClellan volunteered, became a major in the ordnance department, served overseas, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the armistice he returned to his professorship at Princeton, where he remained until his retirement in 1931.
Throughout his life McClellan was a knowledgeable student of art and history. An incorporator and vice-president of the American Academy in Rome, he was also a member of several organizations of artists and architects in the United States. One of the few Americans of his time who was an authority on Italian history, he was the author of The Oligarchy of Venice (1904), Venice and Bonaparte (1931), and Modern Italy (1933). In addition he wrote numerous newspaper and magazine articles on both current affairs and history.
In 1889 McClellan married Georgiana Louise Heckscher, a niece of the wealthy New York capitalist August Heckscher. McClellan and his wife shared many interests, particularly their affection for Italy, which they visited almost annually. They had no children. Following McClellan's retirement from Princeton they moved to Washington, and it was there that he died. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.McClellan's life was compounded of paradoxes. He was an ultra-conservative in a period of far-reaching reform, an avowed aristocrat who welcomed the chance to become a Tammany sachem, and a cynic who consistently sought the prizes he professed to scorn. He joined Tammany partly to serve his own ambitions, but partly because he felt that citizens of the "better type" should take part in such an organization. As a young man he had been determined to avenge his father's failure in politics, but he too failed. Like his father before him, he never forgave the American people for refusing to bestow on him the rewards that he thought he deserved."