Benjamin Wade

Benjamin Wade

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Benjamin Franklin "Bluff" Wade (October 27, 1800 – March 2, 1878) was a U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 lawyer
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and United States Senator. In the Senate, he was associated with the Radical Republicans of that time.

Early life


Born in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, on October 27 to Mary Wade and James Wade. Benjamin Wade's first job was as a laborer
Laborer
A Laborer or labourer - see variation in english spelling - is one of the construction trades, traditionally considered unskilled manual labor, as opposed to skilled labor. In the division of labor, laborers have all blasting, hand tools, power tools, air tools, and small heavy equipment, and act...

 on the Erie Canal
Erie Canal
The Erie Canal is a waterway in New York that runs about from Albany, New York, on the Hudson River to Buffalo, New York, at Lake Erie, completing a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The canal contains 36 locks and encompasses a total elevation differential of...

. He also taught school before studying law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 in Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 with Elisha Whittlesey
Elisha Whittlesey
Elisha Whittlesey was a lawyer, civil servant and U.S. Representative from Ohio.-Biography:Born in Washington, Connecticut, Whittlesey moved with his parents in early youth to Salisbury, Connecticut...

. After being admitted to the bar in 1828, he began practicing law in Jefferson, Ohio
Jefferson, Ohio
Jefferson is a village in Ashtabula County, Ohio, United States. The population was 3,572 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Ashtabula County. Modern-day Jefferson sports the world's only perambulator museum and a historical complex including several restored 18th century buildings....

.

Wade formed a partnership with Joshua Giddings, a prominent anti-slavery figure in 1831. He became the prosecuting attorney of Ashtabula County
Ashtabula County, Ohio
Ashtabula County is the northeasternmost county in the state of Ohio. As of 2010, the population was 101,497, its county seat is Jefferson. The county is named for a Native American word meaning "river of many fish"....

 by 1836, and as a member of the Whig Party, Wade was elected to the Ohio State Senate, serving two two-year terms between 1837 and 1842. He established a new law practice with Rufus P. Ranney
Rufus P. Ranney
Rufus Putnam Ranney was a Democratic politician in the U.S. State of Ohio who helped write the second Ohio Constitution, and was a judge on the Ohio Supreme Court 1851–1856 and 1863–1865....

 and was elected presiding judge of the third district in 1847. Between 1847 and 1851, Wade was a judge of common pleas in what is now Summit County
Summit County, Ohio
Summit County is an urban county located in the state of Ohio, United States. As of the 2000 census, the population was 542,899. In the 2010 Census the population was 541,781. Its county seat is Akron...

 (Ohio).

After the decline of the Whigs' power, Wade joined the Republican Party, and in 1851 he was elected by his legislature to the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. There, he associated with such eventual Radical Republicans as Thaddeus Stevens
Thaddeus Stevens
Thaddeus Stevens , of Pennsylvania, was a Republican leader and one of the most powerful members of the United States House of Representatives...

 and Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,...

. He fought against the controversial Fugitive Slave Act
Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers. This was one of the most controversial acts of the 1850 compromise and heightened...

 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

. He was one of the most radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

 politicians in America at that time, supporting women's suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

, trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 rights, and equality for African-Americans. He was also critical of how certain aspects of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 were practiced in the 19th century.

Civil War



In March 1861, he became chairman of the Committee on Territories, and in July 1861, Wade, along with other politicians, witnessed the defeat of the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 at the First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

. There, he was almost captured by the Confederate Army
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

. After arriving back at Washington, he was one of those who led the attack on the supposed incompetence of the leadership of the Union Army. From 1861 to 1862 he was chairman of the important Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, and in 1862, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, was instrumental in abolishing slavery in the Federal Territories.

During the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Wade was highly critical of President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

; in a September 1861 letter, he privately wrote that Lincoln's views on slavery "could only come of one born of poor white trash
White trash
White trash is an American English pejorative term referring to poor white people in the United States, suggesting lower social class and degraded living standards...

 and educated in a slave State." He was especially angry when Lincoln was slow to recruit African-Americans into the armies, and actively advocated for the bill that abolished slavery and had a direct hand in the passing of the Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 of 1862 and the Morrill Land Grand Act of 1862.

Wade was also critical of Lincoln's Reconstruction Plan; in December 1863, he and Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis was a United States Representative from the 4th and 3rd congressional districts of Maryland, well known as one of the Radical Republicans during the Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 sponsored a bill that would run the South, when conquered, their way.
The Wade-Davis Bill mandated that there be a fifty-percent White male Iron-Clad Loyalty Oath, Black male suffrage, and Military Governors that were to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It passed in the lower chamber on May 4, 1864 by a margin of 73 ayes to 59 nays; in the upper chamber on July 2, 1864 it passed by a similar percentage of 18 ayes to 14 nays and was brought to Lincoln's desk. Tradition has it that Zachariah Chandler
Zachariah Chandler
Zachariah Chandler was Mayor of Detroit , a four-term U.S. Senator from the state of Michigan , and Secretary of the Interior under U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant .-Family:...

 asked him directly if 'he plan on signing it or no?’ and Lincoln replied, ‘it was put before him with too little time to be signed in that way.’ On July 4, 1864, he pocket-vetoed
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 the bill by refusing to sign it. Lincoln later said that he didn't want to be held to one Reconstruction policy. This action drove Wade to sign, along with Davis, the Wade-Davis Manifesto, which accused the president of seeking reelection by the executive establishment of new state governments.

On July 28, 1866, the 39th Congress
39th United States Congress
The Thirty-ninth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1865 to March 4, 1867, during the first month of...

 passed an act to adjust the peacetime establishment of the United States military. Wade proposed that two of the cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 regiments should be composed of African American enlisted personnel. After strong opposition, the legislation was passed which provided for the first black contingent in the regular U.S. Army consisting of six regiments: 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments. These units made up of black enlisted personnel and white officers were not the first of such units to serve on the Western Frontier. During late 1865 through early 1866, companies from the 57th US Colored Infantry Regiment and the 125th United States Colored Infantry Regiment had been assigned to posts in New Mexico Territory
New Mexico Territory
thumb|right|240px|Proposed boundaries for State of New Mexico, 1850The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of...

 to provide protection for settlers in the area, and escort those going further west.

Impeachment of Johnson



Wade, along with most other Radical Republicans, was highly critical of President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 (who became President after Lincoln's assassination). Wade supported the Freedmen's Bureau and Civil Rights Bills (which he succeeded in extending to the District of Columbia) and was a strong partisan of the Fourteenth Amendment. He also strengthened his party in Congress by forcefully advocating the admission of Nebraska and Kansas. These actions made him so prominent that at the beginning of the 40th Congress, Wade became the President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
The President pro tempore is the second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate. The United States Constitution states that the Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate and the highest-ranking official of the Senate despite not being a member of the body...

, which meant that under the law of that time he was next in line for the presidency (as Johnson had no vice president
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

).

After many fallouts with the Republican-dominated Congress, the Judiciary Committee voted to impeach
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

 President Johnson (who had been a Democrat). When Johnson was impeached, Wade was sworn in as one of the senators sitting in judgement, but was greatly criticized because of his unseemly interest in the outcome of the trial. Although most senators believed that Johnson was guilty of the charges, they did not want the extremely radical Wade to become president. One newspaper wrote, "Andrew Johnson is innocent because Ben Wade is guilty of being his successor."

According to John Roy Lynch (R-MS, 1873–76, 1881–82), one of the twenty-two African Americans elected to Congress from the South during Reconstruction, in his book Facts Concerning Reconstruction:

It was believed by many at the time that some of the [moderate] Republican Senators that voted for acquittal [of Andrew Johnson] did so chiefly on account of their antipathy to the man who would succeed to the presidency in the event of the conviction of the [sitting] president. This man was Senator Benjamin Wade, of Ohio, President pro tempore of the Senate who as the law then stood, would have succeeded to the presidency in the event of a vacancy in the office from any cause. Senator Wade was an able man … He was a strong party man. He had no patience with those who claimed to be [Radical] Republicans and yet refused to abide by the decision of the majority of the party organization [as did Grimes, Johnson, Lincoln, Pratt, and Trumbull] … the sort of active and aggressive man that would be likely to make for himself enemies of men in his own organization who were afraid of his great power and influence, and jealous of him as a political rival. That some of his senatorial Republican associates should feel that the best service they could render their country would be to do all in their power to prevent such a man from being elevated to the Presidency … for while they knew he was an able man, they also knew that, according to his convictions of party duty and party obligations, he firmly believed he who served his party best served his country best…that he would have given the country an able administration is concurrent opinion of those who knew him best.


In 1868, then-presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 was urged by his fellow Republicans to choose Wade as his vice presidential running mate; but he refused, instead choosing another radical, Schuyler Colfax
Schuyler Colfax
Schuyler Colfax, Jr. was a United States Representative from Indiana , Speaker of the House of Representatives , and the 17th Vice President of the United States . To date, he is one of only two Americans to have served as both House speaker and vice president.President Ulysses S...

, who coincidentally married Wade's niece, Ellen Maria Wade, shortly after the election. After being defeated in the 1868 elections, Wade returned to his Ohio law practice. Though no longer in politics, Wade continued to contribute to the world of law and politics. He became an agent of the Northern Pacific Railroad, continued his party activities, became a member of the commission researching the likelihood of the purchase of the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 in 1871 and served as an elector for Rutherford Hayes in the election of 1876. He died on March 2, 1878, in Jefferson, Ohio
Jefferson, Ohio
Jefferson is a village in Ashtabula County, Ohio, United States. The population was 3,572 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Ashtabula County. Modern-day Jefferson sports the world's only perambulator museum and a historical complex including several restored 18th century buildings....

.