18th Grant Vice President Slavery Senator Signed Free Frank Letter Cover 1873 For Sale
(1812 – 1875)
18th Vice President of the United States
Civil War Abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts
Wilson was a leading Republican who devoted his enormous energies to the destruction of what he considered the "slavocracy," that is the conspiracy of slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty! Wilson conducted an unremitting campaign to abolish slavery and to recruit black men into the federal forces. He constantly pressured President Lincoln to issue an emancipation proclamation and whenever possible used legislation to secure the same end. One of his proudest achievements was introducing a measure in 1862 abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.
Here's a Beautifully Executed Free Frank Letter Cover Signed by Wilson from the 'Senate Chamber" [Circa 1873]. This piece of Postal History bears a Washington "FREE" circular date stamp postmark and "Senate Chamber, U.S.S." imprint. There are no letter contents. This document comes with a 19th century period engraving. Both pieces in VG condition - Would look Great framed together!!
A RARE ADDITION TO YOUR CIVIL WAR - PRESIDENTIAL AUTOGRAPH & MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION!
<<<>>> BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE HONORABLE VICE PRESIDENT HENRY WILSON <<<>>>
Wilson, Henry (16 Feb. 1812-22 Nov. 1875), U.S. senator and vice president, was born in Farmington, New Hampshire, and christened Jeremiah Jones Colbath, the son of Winthrop Colbath, Jr., a laborer, and Abigail Witham. When he was ten his father arranged with a local farmer to take him as an apprentice for the next eleven years, an experience that left the young Jeremiah with a lifelong appreciation for the tribulations of working men. On his twenty-first birthday Colbath, apparently hoping to repudiate his poverty- stricken past, changed his name to Henry Wilson and left his home for Natick, Massachusetts, where he became a shoemaker. In New Hampshire he had had little time for school; in Massachusetts he was able to save enough money from shoemaking to attend local academies for about a year.
In 1840 he married Harriet Malvina Howe; they had one child. Also in 1840 he was elected to the lower house of the Massachusetts legislature, and from that time on he sacrificed everything for his political career, including his business. Although by 1847 Wilson employed more than one hundred workers, he had no intention of remaining a shoe manufacturer. Political opponents nicknamed him the "Natick Cobbler," an intended slur that he quickly turned to his advantage. Between 1840 and 1852 he was elected to the state legislature eight times.
A career in politics enabled Wilson to satisfy his powerful ambition. He reveled in the machinations involved in building coalitions and controlling elections, but he also became devoted to political activity because it offered him a means of fulfilling his strong commitment to social and moral reform. Wilson was a firm believer in the superiority of the northern free-labor economy that allowed men like himself to succeed through their own efforts, and he wanted to guarantee such opportunities for others. As a state legislator he supported public schools, temperance reform, a mechanic's lien law, a secret ballot, a reduction in the poll tax, and the abolition of imprisonment for debt.
The causes that dominated his political career, however, were the abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal rights for black Americans. A visit in 1836 to Washington, D.C., where he first witnessed slavery, left him with a strong revulsion against the institution. As a champion of free labor, he warned that the same prejudices of class and race that subjugated blacks could also oppress poor white workers. He became an abolitionist because, he concluded, the slaves were the most degraded and helpless victims of society. In the Massachusetts legislature he called for the elimination of segregated schools, the repeal of laws forofferding interracial marriages and barring blacks from the state militia, and the passage of a civil rights law.
Although Wilson was morally opposed to slavery, he also resented the political influence of the southern planters, whom he referred to as the "slave power," and endeavored to create an antislavery party capable of wresting control of the federal government from the slaveholders. In 1866 he contended that "I have always subordinated political organizations . . . to the overshadowing issues growing out of the existence of slavery, the domination of the slave power, and the rights and privileges of the African race" (Congressional Globe, 39th Cong., 2d. sess., p. 191). Initially he joined the Whig party, partly because it already controlled Massachusetts, but also because he believed it to be more antislavery than its Democratic rival. He became a leader of the Conscience Whigs, who urged their party to take a strong stand against slavery expansion; when it failed to do so, in 1848 he left the Whigs to help found the Free Soil party, which was dedicated to that end. From 1848 to 1851 he edited the Boston Republican, a Free Soil newspaper. In 1851 Wilson organized a coalition between Massachusetts Free Soilers and Democrats that elected Charles Sumner, a strong antislavery man, to the U.S. Senate. In 1854, following the collapse of the Free Soil party, Wilson joined the newly emerged Know Nothing or American party, swallowing his distaste for its nativist doctrines because he hoped to convert it to an antislavery organization. In 1855 the Know Nothing legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate, an office to which he would be returned three times.
Secure in his new post, and deciding that the Know Nothings were doomed, Wilson helped organize the Republican party and remained loyal to it for the rest of his life. The new party was strongly opposed to slavery expansion, and Wilson devoted every effort to helping it win control of the federal government. Because of his strong antislavery views and his efforts to keep slavery out of the Kansas Territory during the Kansas crisis of 1855-1858, Wilson could be regarded as a member of the radical wing of the Republican party. He also voted for proposals that would strengthen the North's free- labor economy, including land grants to railroads, tariffs for industry, fishing bounties for New England fishermen, and homesteads for western farmers. In 1860 he traveled thousands of miles and gave more than one hundred speeches for the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln's victory resulted in the secession of the southern states Wilson opposed efforts to resolve the crisis by compromising sectional differences over slavery in the territories.
After the Civil War began in 1861, Wilson, who served as chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, drew on his considerable political and legislative skills to draft and secure passage of the Union's manpower procurement laws, including the 1862 Militia Draft Act and the 1863 Enrollment Act. In gaining approval for these measures, Wilson demonstrated his ability to compromise and balance competing views and interests. As the first federal conscription law, the Enrollment Act helped raise and organize the armies that fought from 1863 to 1865, but it contained enough concessions to state governors jealous of their prerogatives and to businessmen fearful of being drafted themselves or losing their laborers to the war to weaken opposition to it and facilitate its implementation.
Wilson also conducted an unremitting campaign to abolish slavery and to recruit black men into the federal forces. He constantly pressured President Lincoln to issue an emancipation proclamation and whenever possible used legislation to secure the same end. One of his proudest achievements was introducing a measure in 1862 abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. His militia draft bill authorized the president to enroll blacks, including slaves, for military service. Later legislation he sponsored granted freedom to slaves inducted into the army as well as to their families and provided black troops with the same bounties and pay as whites. In addition, he and his colleague Sumner obtained legislation securing equal civil rights for blacks in the District of Columbia. Wilson also played a critical role in the creation of the Freedmen's Bureau, a federal agency charged with overseeing the welfare of the former slaves.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, the ensuing struggle over the status of almost four million freed slaves absorbed Wilson's political and legislative skills. He was horrified by the Black Codes that former Confederate states enacted in 1865 and 1866 to severely restrict the freedom of former slaves, and he warned that "the dark spirits of slavery still live." Although Wilson supported federal legislation protecting the civil rights of the freedmen, he was convinced that granting them suffrage was the best way to secure their equal treatment. Realizing that such action would be unpopular with most whites in both the North and the South, he was willing to limit voting to blacks who could meet property or literacy requirements or who had served in the Union armies.
After the Republicans increased their power in Congress in the 1866 elections, Wilson endorsed universal suffrage and played a major role in writing the Reconstruction acts that required southern states to enfranchise black males before being readmitted to the Union. In 1869 he failed to obtain a provision in the Fifteenth Amendment protecting black rights to elective office as well as to the vote; in 1871-1872 he backed Sumner's efforts to prohibit segregation in schools and public accommodations throughout the nation.
For his support of black enfranchisement, because he voted for the impeachment of Lincoln's successor, President Andrew Johnson, and for his resistance to the congressional Reconstruction program, Wilson was known as a Radical Republican. Unlike some Radicals, however, he did not advocate confiscation and redistribution of southern plantation land, and he revealed no vindictiveness toward former Confederates. Although he supported federal enforcement laws to protect black rights against white violence organized by the Ku Klux Klan, Wilson believed that if racial justice were to prevail in the South, whites would have to play a role in the process. To encourage them to do so, as soon as the war ended he sought the release of Confederate leaders from jail and he consistently opposed depriving them of the right to vote or hold office. As soon as Congress finished enacting its Reconstruction program in 1867, he left to tour the South, hoping to coax whites to ally with blacks in the Republican party; it was a goal he continued to pursue for the rest of his life.
Although Wilson spent much of his time in the Senate pushing for racial justice, he continued to advocate other reforms. He supported an eight-hour day for government workers, opposed the importation of contract labor, backed civil service reform, and endorsed woman suffrage and federal aid to education. In 1868 he worked hard to secure the election of Union general Ulysses S. Grant, the Republican presidential candidate, and in 1872 the Republican party rewarded him for his long service by nominating and electing him vice president on Grant's ticket. To his frustration, he had little influence on administration policies. Eager to establish his place in history, Wilson spent his last years writing his monumental three-volume History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America (1872-1877), which was almost completed when he died in the vice president's room in the U.S. Capitol. Because Wilson was personally involved in many of the events leading to the Civil War and gathered a tremendous amount of data in his books, they remain a useful source for historians studying the controversy over slavery.
A common man himself, Wilson was sensitive to the limitations public opinion placed on politicians, and his contemporaries frequently complained that he compromised principles to expediency. A Boston journalist who knew him well, William S. Robinson, observed that "hence he is a legislator easily moved from his position, but never from his purpose" (Boston Commonwealth, 28 Jan. 1865). In his two-volume Reminiscences of Sixty Years in Public Life (1902), Massachusetts Republican George S. Boutwell admitted that Wilson's "political career was tortuous" but contended that "in all his windings he was true to the cause of human liberty" (vol. 1, p. 79). Ultimately Wilson left a significant legislative record that demonstrated how the political process he manipulated could serve the nation's interest, especially by achieving justice for black Americans. [Source: American National Biography]
Small collections of Wilson's papers are in the Library of Congress and in the Natick Historical Society Museum of South Natick, Mass. Besides the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, Wilson's major writings include Antislavery Measures of the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Congresses, 1861-1864 (1864) and Reconstruction Measures of the Thirty- ninth and Fortieth Congresses, 1865-1868 (1868). On the preparation of his major work, see John L. Myers, "The Writing of the History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America," Civil War History 31 (1985): 144-62. Two modern biographies of Wilson are Richard H. Abbott, Cobbler in Congress: The Life of Henry Wilson, 1812-1875 (1972), and Ernest A. McKay, Henry Wilson, Practical Radical: Portrait of a Reformer (1971). A useful collection of obituaries prepared by members of Congress who knew Wilson is in Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of Henry Wilson (1876).
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