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Henry Wilson

Henry Wilson

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Henry Wilson was the 18th Vice President of the United States
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...

 (1873–1875) and a Senator
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...

 from Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 (1855–1873). 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...

, he was a leading Republican who devoted his enormous energies to the destruction of what he called the Slave Power, which he defined as a conspiracy of slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty.
After the Civil War, he was elected vice president in 1872, on President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 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...

's Republican ticket
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

; he served in this position from March 4, 1873 until November 22, 1875, when he died in office.

Biography


Wilson was born Jeremiah Jones Colbath in Farmington, New Hampshire
Farmington, New Hampshire
Farmington is a town located in Strafford County, New Hampshire, USA. The 2010 census reported that the town had a total population of 6,786. Farmington is home to Blue Job State Forest....

. In 1833 he had his name legally changed by the legislature to Henry Wilson. Henry Wilson moved to Natick, Massachusetts
Natick, Massachusetts
Natick is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. Natick is located near the center of the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, with a population of 33,006 at the 2010 census. Only west from Boston, Natick is considered part of the Greater Boston area...

 in 1833 and became a shoemaker. He attended several local academies, and also taught school in Natick, where he later engaged in the manufacture of shoes. He was a member of the state legislature between 1841 and 1852, and was owner and editor of the Boston Republican from 1848 to 1851.

U.S. Congress


Wilson was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1852 to Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. He was a delegate to the state constitutional convention
Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1853
The Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1853 met in order to consider changes to the Massachusetts Constitution. This was the third such convention in Massachusetts history; the first, in 1779–80, had drawn up the original document, while the second, in 1820-21, submitted the first nine...

 in 1853 and was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts
Governor of Massachusetts
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the executive magistrate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States. The current governor is Democrat Deval Patrick.-Constitutional role:...

 in 1853. In 1855 he was elected 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...

 by a coalition of Free-Soilers
Free Soil Party
The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections, and in some state elections. It was a third party and a single-issue party that largely appealed to and drew its greatest strength from New York State. The party leadership...

, Americans (aka Know Nothings)
Know Nothing
The Know Nothing was a movement by the nativist American political faction of the 1840s and 1850s. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to Anglo-Saxon Protestant values and controlled by...

, and Democrats to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Edward Everett
Edward Everett
Edward Everett was an American politician and educator from Massachusetts. Everett, a Whig, served as U.S. Representative, and U.S. Senator, the 15th Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, and United States Secretary of State...

. He was reelected as a Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 in 1859, 1865 and 1871, and served from January 31, 1855, to March 4, 1873, when he resigned to become Vice President. He was Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia and the Committee on Military Affairs. In that capacity, Wilson passed on over 15,000 nominations that Lincoln submitted during the course of the War, and worked closely with him on legislation affecting the Army and Navy. In 1861 he raised and commanded the 22nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

A controversy that swirled around Wilson's name since 1861 was that he (while Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs) may have revealed plans for the invasion of Virginia culminating in 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...

 to southern spy (and Washington society figure) Rose O'Neal Greenhow
Rose O'Neal Greenhow
Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a renowned Confederate spy. As a leader in Washington, D.C. society during the period to prior the American Civil War, she traveled in important political circles and cultivated friendships with presidents, generals, senators, and high-ranking military officers, using her...

. Wilson (although married) had seen a great deal of Mrs. Greenhow, and while with her may have told her about the plans followed by Major General Irvin McDowell
Irvin McDowell
Irvin McDowell was a career American army officer. He is best known for his defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run, the first large-scale battle of the American Civil War.-Early life:...

, which may have been part of the intelligence Mrs. Greenhow got to Confederate forces under Major General Pierre Beauregard. If so this information may have led to the Northern rout in that battle. However, in his most recent biography, an alternative (a Northern clerk named Horace White) was suggested as the real leak.


Vice President


Wilson was elected Vice President of the United States
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...

 on the Republican ticket with President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 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...

 to replace the controversial 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...

 and served from March 4, 1873, until his death. His election victory was tainted, however, when it was shown that he was one of several major Republican (and Democratic) Congressmen and Senators who were offered bribes (and possibly took them) of shares in the Crédit Mobilier
Crédit Mobilier of America scandal
The Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872 involved the Union Pacific Railroad and the Crédit Mobilier of America construction company in the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The distribution of Crédit Mobilier shares of stock by Congressman Oakes Ames along with cash bribes to...

 scandal by its organizer, Congressman Oakes Ames. Wilson was cleared by the Senate inquiry, but his reputation was stained.

Declining health and death


The Vice President suffered a serious stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 in 1873. Although partly paralyzed, he fought to actively perform his duties as presiding officer over 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...

. On November 22, 1875, Wilson died from a second stroke while working in the United States Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

 Building at Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 He was interred in Old Dell Park Cemetery, Natick.

Books


Among Wilson's published works are: History of the Anti-Slavery Measures of the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Congresses, 1861-64 (1864); History of the Reconstruction Measures of the Thirty-ninth and Fortieth Congresses, 1865-68 (1868); and an exceedingly valuable, although partisan, publication, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America
History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America
The History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America is a historically significant book about the American Civil War by Vice President Henry Wilson, who had been a Senator from Massachusetts during the war....

, (three volumes, 1872–77).

Trivia

  • His desk was the desk used by Richard Nixon
    Richard Nixon
    Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

     during his administration. Nixon really wanted the desk used by Woodrow Wilson
    Woodrow Wilson
    Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

    , and when he asked for a "Wilson desk
    Wilson desk
    The misnamed Wilson desk is one of only five desks ever used by a President of the United States in the Oval Office. This Oval Office desk was used by only Richard Nixon and subsequently Gerald Ford after Nixon's resignation. The desk was ordered by Garret Augustus Hobart, 24th Vice President of...

    ", he received the desk used by Henry Wilson. Nixon didn't figure out this mistake until later on.

External links

Retrieved on 2008-02-15
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