Henry Wilson Autograph: 18th Us Vice President Under Ulysses S. Grant- Civil War
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Henry Wilson Autograph: 18th Us Vice President Under Ulysses S. Grant- Civil War:
This is an autograph cut from 18th Vice President of the United States, Henry Wilson. The cut itself measures about 2.25" x 1" and it is applied to a larger card.
From Wikipedia on Wilson:
Henry Wilson (born Jeremiah Jones Colbath; February 16, 1812 – November 22, 1875) was the 18th Vice President of the United States (1873–75) and a Senator from Massachusetts (1855–73). Before and during the American Civil War, he was a leading Republican, and a strong opponent of slavery. He devoted his energies to the destruction of the "Slave Power" – the faction of slave owners and their political allies which anti-slavery Americans saw as dominating the country.
Originally a Whig, Wilson was a founder of the Free Soil Party in 1848. He served as the party chairman before and during the 1852 presidential election. He worked diligently to build an anti-slavery coalition, which came to include the Free Soil Party, anti-slavery Democrats, New York Barnburners, the Liberty Party, anti-slavery members of the Native American Party (Know Nothings), and anti-slavery Whigs (called Conscience Whigs). When the Free Soil party dissolved in the mid-1850s, Wilson joined the Republican Party, which he helped found, and which was organized largely in line with the anti-slavery coalition he had nurtured in the 1840s and 1850s.
While a Senator during the American Civil War Wilson was considered a "Radical Republican", and his experience as a militia general, organizer and commander of a Union Army regiment, and chairman of the Senate military committees enabled him to assist the Abraham Lincoln administration in the organization and oversight of the Union Army and Union Navy. Wilson successfully authored bills that outlawed slavery in Washington D.C. and incorporated African Americans in the Union Civil War effort in 1862.
After the Civil War, he supported the Radical Republican program for Reconstruction. In 1872, he was elected Vice President as the running mate of Ulysses S. Grant, the incumbent President of the United States, who was running for a second term. The Grant and Wilson ticket was successful, and Wilson served as Vice President from March 4, 1873 until his death on November 22, 1875. Wilson's effectiveness as Vice President was limited after he suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1873, and his health continued to decline until he was the victim of a fatal stroke while working in the United States Capitol in late 1875.
Throughout his career, Wilson was known for championing causes that were at times unpopular, including the abolition of slavery and workers' rights for both blacks and whites. Massachusetts politician George F. Hoar, who served in the United States House of Representatives while Wilson was a Senator, and later served in the Senate himself, believed Wilson to be the most skilled political organizer in the country. However, Wilson's reputation for personal integrity and principled politics was somewhat damaged late in his Senate career by his involvement in the Crédit Mobilier scandal.
Henry Wilson was born in Farmington, New Hampshire on February 16, 1812, one of several children born to Winthrop and Abigail (Witham) Colbath. His father named him Jeremiah Jones Colbath after a wealthy neighbor who was a childless bachelor, vainly hoping that this gesture might result in an inheritance. Winthrop Colbath was a militia veteran of the War of 1812 who worked as a day laborer and hired himself out to local farms and businesses, in addition to occasionally running a sawmill.
The Colbath family was impoverished and, after a brief elementary education, at the age of 10 Wilson was indentured to a neighboring farmer, where he worked as a laborer for the next 10 years. During this time two neighbors gave him books and Wilson enhanced his meager education by reading extensively on English and American history and biography. At the end of his service he was given "six sheep and a yoke [two] of oxen." Wilson immediately sold his animals for $85, which was the first money he had earned during his indenture.
Wilson apparently did not like his birth name, though the reasons given vary. Some sources indicate that he was not close to his family, or disliked his name because of his father's supposed intemperance and modest financial circumstances. Others indicate that he was called "Jed" and "Jerry", and disliked the nicknames so much that he resolved to change his name. Whatever the reason, when he turned 21 he successfully petitioned the New Hampshire General Court to legally change it. He chose the name Henry Wilson, inspired either by a biography of a Philadelphia teacher or a portrait from a book on English clergymen.
(The ideas that his name change resulted from disrespect of his father or lack of closeness with his family seem to be belied by the fact that some of his relatives followed him after he relocated to Natick, Massachusetts, including brother George A. Colbath. In addition, Winthrop and Abigail Colbath moved to Natick in 1848. Winthrop died in Natick in 1860 and Abigail died there in 1866.)
After trying and failing to find work in New Hampshire, in 1833 Wilson walked more than one hundred miles to Natick, Massachusetts seeking employment or a trade. Having met William P. Legro, a shoemaker who was willing to train him, Wilson hired himself out for five months to learn to make leather shoes called brogans. Wilson learned the trade in a few weeks, bought out his employment contract for $15, and opened his own shop, intending to save enough money to study law. Wilson had success as a shoemaker, and was able to save several hundred dollars in a relatively short time. This success gave rise to legends about Wilson's skill; according to one story that grew with retelling, he once attempted to make one hundred pairs of shoes without sleeping, and fell asleep with the one hundredth pair in his hand. Wilson's shoe making experience led to the creation of the political nicknames his supporters later used to highlight his working class roots—the "Natick Cobbler" and the "Natick Shoemaker".
During this time Wilson read extensively and joined the Natick Debating Society, where he developed into an accomplished speaker. Wilson's health suffered as the result of the long hours he worked making shoes, and he traveled to Virginia to recuperate. During a stop in Washington, D.C. he heard Congressional debates on slavery and abolitionism, and observed African American families being separated as they were bought and sold in the Washington slave trade. Wilson resolved to dedicate himself "to the cause of emancipation in America", and after regaining his health returned to New England, where he furthered his education by attending several New Hampshire academies including schools in Strafford, Wolfeboro, and Concord.
Having spent part of his savings on his traveling and schooling, and having lost some as the result of a loan that was not repaid, Wilson worked as a schoolteacher to get out of debt and begin saving money again, intending to start a business of his own. Beginning with an investment of only twelve dollars, Wilson started a shoe manufacturing company. This venture proved successful, and Wilson eventually employed over 100 workers.
Wilson became active politically as a Whig, and campaigned for William Henry Harrison in 1840. He had joined the Whigs out of disappointment with the fiscal policies of Democrats Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, and like most Whigs blamed them for the Panic of 1837. In 1840 he was also elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and served from 1841 to 1842.
Wilson was a member of the Massachusetts State Senate from 1844 to 1846 and 1850 to 1852. From 1851 to 1852 he was the Senate's President.
As early as 1845, Wilson had started to become disenchanted with the Whigs as the party attempted to compromise on the slavery issue, and as a Conscience Whig he took steps including the organization of a convention in Concord opposed to the annexation of Texas because it would expand slavery. As a result of this effort, in late 1845 Wilson and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier were chosen to submit in person a petition to Congress containing the signatures of 65,000 Massachusetts residents opposed to Texas annexation.
Wilson was a delegate to the 1848 Whig National Convention, but left the party after it nominated slave owner Zachary Taylor for president and took no position on the Wilmot Proviso, which would have prohibited slavery in territory acquired from Mexico in the Mexican-American War. Wilson and Charles Allen, another Massachusetts delegate, withdrew from the convention, and called for a new meeting of anti-slavery advocates in Buffalo, which launched the Free Soil Party.
Having left the Whig Party, Wilson worked to build coalitions with others opposed to slavery, including Free Soilers, anti-slavery Democrats, Barnburners from New York's Democratic Party, the Liberty Party, the anti-slavery elements of the Whig Party, and anti-slavery members of the Know Nothing or Native American Party. Although Wilson's new political coalition was castigated by "straight party" adherents of the mainstream Democratic and Whig parties, in April 1851 it elected Free Soil candidate Charles Sumner to the U.S. Senate.
From 1848 to 1851 Wilson was the owner and editor of the Boston Republican, which from 1841 to 1848 was a Whig outlet, and from 1848 to 1851 was the main Free Soil Party newspaper.
During his service in the Massachusetts legislature, Wilson took note that participation in the state militia had declined, and that it was not in a state of readiness. In addition to undertaking legislative efforts to provide uniforms and other equipment, in 1843 Wilson joined the militia himself, becoming a Major in the 1st Artillery Regiment, which he later commanded with the rank of colonel. In 1846 Wilson was promoted to brigadier general as commander of the Massachusetts Militia's 3rd Brigade, a position he held until 1852.
In 1852, Wilson was chairman of the Free Soil Party's national convention in Pittsburgh, which nominated John P. Hale for president and George Washington Julian for vice president. Later that year he was a Free Soil candidate for U.S. Representative, and lost to Whig Tappan Wentworth. He was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1853, which proposed a series of political and governmental reforms that were defeated by voters in a post-convention popular referendum. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Massachusetts as a Free Soil candidate in 1853 and 1854, but declined to be a candidate again in 1855 because he had his sights set on the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senator (1855–1873)
In 1855 Wilson was elected to the United States Senate by a coalition of Free-Soilers, Know Nothings, and anti-slavery Democrats, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Edward Everett. He had briefly joined the Know-Nothings in an attempt to strengthen their anti-slavery efforts, but aligned himself with the Republican Party at its creation, formed largely along the lines of the anti-slavery coalition Wilson had helped develop and nurture. Wilson was reelected as a Republican in 1859, 1865 and 1871, and served from January 31, 1855 to March 3, 1873, when he resigned in order to begin his vice presidential term on March 4.
In his first Senate speech in 1855, Wilson continued to align himself with the abolitionists, who wanted to immediately end slavery in the United States and its territories. In his speech, Wilson said he wanted to abolish slavery "wherever we are morally and legally responsible for its existence" including Washington D.C. Wilson also demanded repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, believing the federal government should have no responsibility for enforcing slavery, and that once the act was repealed tensions between slavery proponents and opponents would abate, enabling those Southerners who opposed slavery to help end it in their own time.
On May 22, 1856 Preston Brooks brutally assaulted Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor, leaving Sumner bloody and unconscious. Brooks had been upset over Sumner's Crimes Against Kansas speech that denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act. After the beating, Sumner received medical treatment at the Capitol, following which Wilson and Nathaniel P. Banks, the Speaker of the House, aided Sumner to travel by carriage to his lodgings, where he received further medical attention. Wilson called the beating by Brooks "brutal, murderous, and cowardly". Brooks immediately challenged Wilson to a duel. Wilson declined, saying that he could not legally or by personal conviction participate. In reference to a rumor that Brooks might attack Wilson in the Senate as he had attacked Sumner, Wilson told the press "I have sought no controversy, and I seek none, but I shall go where duty requires, uninfluenced by threats of any kind." The rumors proved unfounded, and Wilson continued his Senate duties without incident.
The attack on Sumner took place just one day after pro-slavery Missourians killed one person in the burning and sacking of Lawrence, Kansas. The attack on Sumner and the sacking of Lawrence were later viewed as two of the incidents which symbolized the "breakdown of reasoned discourse." This phrase came to describe the period when activists and politicians moved past the debate of anti-slavery and pro-slavery speeches and non-violent actions, and into the realm of physical violence, which in part hastened the onset of the American Civil War.
In June 1858 Wilson made a Senate speech in which he suggested corruption in the government of California and inferred complicity on the part of Senator William M. Gwin, a pro-slavery Democrat who had served as a member of Congress from Mississippi before moving to California. Gwin accused Wilson of demagoguery, and Wilson responded by saying he'd rather be thought a demagogue than a thief. Gwin then challenged Wilson to a duel; Wilson declined in the same terms he used to decline a duel with Preston Brooks. In fact neither Gwin nor Wilson wanted to follow through, and commentary about the dispute broke down along partisan lines. One pro-Gwin editorial called the insinuation that Gwin was corrupt "a most malignant falsehood", while a pro-Wilson editorial called his reluctance to take part in a duel evidence that he was "honest" and "conscientious", and had "more respect for the laws of this country than his adversary". After several attempts to find a face-saving compromise, Gwin and Wilson agreed to refer their dispute to three senators who would serve as mediators. William H. Seward, John J. Crittenden and Jefferson Davis were chosen, and produced an acceptable solution. At their instigation, Wilson stated to the Senate that he had not meant to impugn Gwin's honor, and Gwin replied by saying that he had not meant to question Wilson's motives. In addition, the mediators caused to be removed from the Senate record both Gwin's remarks about demagoguery and Wilson's suggestion that Gwin was a thief.
During the American Civil War, Wilson was Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia, and later the Committee on Military Affairs. In that capacity, he oversaw action on over 15,000 War and Navy Department nominations that Abraham Lincoln submitted during the course of the war, and worked closely with him on legislation affecting the Army and Navy.
In the summer of 1861, after the congressional session ended, Wilson returned to Massachusetts and recruited and equipped nearly 2,300 men in forty days. They were mustered in as the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which he commanded from September 27 to October 29, an honor sometimes accorded to the individual responsible for raising and equipping a regiment. After the war he became an early member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.
Wilson's experience in the militia, service with the 22nd Massachusetts, and chairmanship of the Military Affairs Committee provided him with more practical military knowledge and training than any other Senator. He made use of this experience throughout the war to frame, explain, defend and advocate for legislation on military matters, including enlistment of soldiers and sailors, and organizing and supplying the rapidly expanding Union Army and Union Navy.
Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the United States Army since 1841, said that during the session of Congress that ended in the Spring of 1861 Wilson had done more work "than all the chairmen of the military committees had done for the last 20 years." On January 27, 1862 Simon Cameron, the recently resigned Secretary of War echoed Scott's sentiments when he said that "no man, in my opinion, in the whole country, has done more to aid the war department in preparing the mighty [Union] army now under arms than yourself [Wilson]. "
In July 1861 Wilson was present for the Civil War's first major battle at Bull Run Creek in Manassas, Virginia, an event which many senators, representatives, newspaper reporters, and Washington society elite traveled from the city to observe in anticipation of a quick Union victory. Riding out in a carriage in the early morning, Wilson brought a picnic hamper of sandwiches to feed Union troops. However, the battle turned into a Confederate rout, forcing Union troops to make a panicky retreat. Caught up in the chaos, Wilson was almost captured by the Confederates, while his carriage was crushed, and he had to make an embarrassing return to Washington on foot. The result of this battle had a sobering effect on many in the North, causing widespread realization that Union victory would not be won without a prolonged struggle.
In seeking to place blame for the Union defeat, some in Washington spread rumors that Wilson had revealed plans for the Union invasion of Virginia to Washington society figure and southern spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow. According to the story, although he was married, Wilson had seen a great deal of Mrs. Greenhow, and may have told her about the plans of Major General Irvin McDowell, which Mrs. Greenhow then conveyed to Confederate forces under Major General P. G. T. Beauregard. One Wilson biography suggests someone else—Wilson's Senate clerk Horace White—was also friendly with Mrs. Greenhow and could have leaked the invasion plan, although it is also possible that neither Wilson nor White did so.
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