81 Facts About Henry Wilson


Originally a Whig, Henry Wilson was a founder of the Free Soil Party in 1848.


Henry Wilson served as the party chairman before and during the 1852 presidential election.


Henry Wilson 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, and anti-slavery Whigs.


Henry Wilson successfully authored bills that outlawed slavery in Washington, DC, and incorporated African Americans in the Union Civil War effort in 1862.


In 1872, Wilson 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 Henry Wilson ticket was successful, and Henry Wilson served as vice president from March 4,1873, until his death on November 22,1875.


Massachusetts politician George Frisbie Hoar, who served in the United States House of Representatives while Henry Wilson was a senator, and later served in the Senate himself, believed Henry Wilson to be the most skilled political organizer in the country.


Henry Wilson was born in Farmington, New Hampshire, on February 16,1812, one of several children born to Winthrop and Abigail Colbath.


Henry Wilson's 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.


The Colbath family was impoverished; after a brief elementary education, at the age of 10 Henry Wilson was indentured to a neighboring farmer, where he worked as a laborer for the next 10 years.


Henry Wilson apparently did not like his birth name, though the reasons given vary.


Henry Wilson chose the name Henry Wilson, inspired either by a biography of a Philadelphia teacher or a portrait from a book on English clergymen.


Henry Wilson learned the trade in a few weeks, bought out his employment contract for fifteen dollars, and opened his own shop, intending to save enough money to study law.


Henry Wilson had success as a shoemaker, and was able to save several hundred dollars in a relatively short time.


Henry Wilson's health suffered as the result of the long hours he worked making shoes, and he traveled to Virginia to recuperate.


Henry 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.


Henry Wilson 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.


Henry Wilson was a member of the Massachusetts State Senate from 1844 to 1846 and 1850 to 1852.


From 1848 to 1851 Henry 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.


In 1846 Henry 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.


Henry Wilson 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.


Henry Wilson 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 US Senate.


In 1855 Henry 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.


Henry Wilson 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.


Henry 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.


Henry Wilson called the beating by Brooks "brutal, murderous, and cowardly".


Henry Wilson declined, saying that he could not legally or by personal conviction participate.


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.


In fact neither Gwin nor Henry Wilson wanted to follow through, and commentary about the dispute broke down along partisan lines.


At their instigation, Henry 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 Henry Wilson's motives.


Henry Wilson 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.


In July 1861, Henry 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.


In seeking to place blame for the Union defeat, some in Washington spread rumors that Henry Wilson had revealed plans for the Union invasion of Virginia to Washington society figure and Southern spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow.


On December 16,1861, Henry Wilson introduced a bill to abolish slavery in Washington, DC, something he had desired to do since his visit to the nation's capital 25 years earlier.


Henry Wilson said of his bill that it would "blot out slavery forever from the nation's capital".


On July 8,1862, Henry Wilson drafted a measure that authorized the President to enlist African Americans who had been held in slavery and were deemed competent for military service, and employ them to construct fortifications and carry out other military-related manual labor, the first step towards allowing African Americans to serve as soldiers.


Henry Wilson's law paid African Americans in the military $10 monthly, which was effectively $7 a month after deductions for food and clothing, while white soldiers were paid effectively $14 monthly.


On February 17,1863, Henry Wilson introduced a bill that would federally fund elementary education for African American youth in Washington, DC President Lincoln signed the bill into law on March 3,1863.


Henry Wilson added an amendment to the 1864 Enrollment Act which provided that formerly enslaved African Americans from slave holding states remaining in the Union who enlisted in the Union Army would be considered permanently free by action of the federal government, rather than through individual emancipation by the states or their owners, thus preventing the possibility of their re-enslavement.


Henry Wilson supported the right of black men to join the uniformed services.


Once African Americans were permitted to serve in the military, Henry Wilson advocated in the Senate for them to receive equal pay and other benefits.


On June 15,1864, Henry Wilson succeeded in adding a provision to an appropriations bill which addressed the pay disparity between whites and blacks in the military by authorizing equal salaries and benefits for African American soldiers.


Henry Wilson's provision stated that "all persons of color who had been or might be mustered into the military service should receive the same uniform, clothing, rations, medical and hospital attendance, and pay" as white soldiers, to date from January 1864.


Henry Wilson introduced a bill in Congress which would free in the Union's slave-holding states the still-enslaved families of former slaves serving in the Union Army.


Henry Wilson favored allowing only persons who had been loyal to the United States to serve in positions of political power in the former Confederacy, and believed that Congress, not the president, had the power to reconstruct the southern states.


On December 21,1865, two days after the announcement that the states had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, Henry Wilson introduced a bill to protect the civil rights of African Americans.


Henry Wilson supported the effort to impeach Johnson, saying that Johnson was "unworthy, if not criminal" in his conduct by resisting Congressional Reconstruction measures, many of which were passed over his vetoes.


At the 1868 Senate trial Henry Wilson voted for Johnson's conviction, but Republicans fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove Johnson from office.


On May 27,1868, Henry Wilson spoke before the Senate to forcefully advocate the readmission of Arkansas.


Henry Wilson said he would not agree to Congressional adjournment until all Southern states with reconstructed governments loyal to the United States that adopted new constitutions were readmitted.


Henry Wilson defended Revels's election, and presented as evidence of its validity signatures from the clerks of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Mississippi State Senate, as well as that of Adelbert Ames, the military Governor of Mississippi.


Henry Wilson argued that Revels's skin color was not a bar to Senate service, and connected the role of the Senate to Christianity's Golden Rule of doing to others as one would have done to oneself.


The Senate voted to seat Revels, and after he took the oath of office Henry Wilson personally escorted him to his desk as journalists recorded the historic event.


Many in the press believed Henry Wilson was promoting himself to be the Republican presidential candidate.


Radicals, including Benjamin Wade, were stunned by Henry Wilson's remarks, believing blacks should not be subject to their former white owners.


At the Republican Convention, Henry Wilson, Wade and others competed for the vice presidential nomination, and Henry Wilson had support among Southern delegates, but he failed to win after five ballots.


In 1872 Henry Wilson had a strong reputation among Republicans as a principled but practical reformer who supported African American civil rights, voting rights for women, federal education aid, regulation of businesses, and prohibition of liquor.


Henry Wilson was popular among Republicans for the vice presidential nomination, with an appealing rags-to-riches story that included his rise from indentured servant to owner and operator of a successful shoe making business.


Grant's personal popularity proved insurmountable in the general election, and Grant and Henry Wilson went on to overwhelmingly defeat Greeley and Brown in both the popular and electoral college votes.


Henry Wilson was one of several Representatives and Senators, including Colfax, who were offered bribes of cash and discounted shares in the Union Pacific Railroad's Credit Mobilier subsidiary from Congressman Oakes Ames during the late 1860s in exchange for votes favorable to the Union Pacific during the building of the First transcontinental railroad.


Henry Wilson told members of the investigating committee that in December 1867 he had agreed to purchase $2,000 in Credit Mobilier stock using Mrs Henry Wilson's money and in her name.


Henry Wilson served as vice president from March 4,1873, until his death.


In early May 1873, Wilson attended funeral services for Salmon P Chase in New York City.


Henry Wilson's doctor ordered him to rest, but Wilson allowed reporters to see him.


Henry Wilson was able to preside over the Senate from December 1 through December 9,1873, but was unable to speak in public, including when he attended a Boston commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.


Henry Wilson remained in occasional ill health into 1874, but was able to attend funeral services for Charles Sumner in March.


When Free Soil and abolitionist colleague Gerrit Smith died in New York City on December 28,1874, Henry Wilson traveled there to view the body and take part in funeral services.


Henry Wilson continued to go through bouts of ill health in 1875.


Henry Wilson's remains were accorded the honor of lying in state at the United States Capitol rotunda.


The subsequent funeral arrangements included military escorts as Henry Wilson's remains were transferred from one train station to another en route from Washington to Natick, as well as nights lying in state.


Henry Wilson was interred at Old Dell Park Cemetery in Natick.


The causes Henry Wilson supported included abolition of slavery, and the rights of workers, both black and white.


Henry Wilson was not hesitant to sever ties with old guard politicians and form new coalitions in order to accomplish his objectives, even though this gave him the reputation among opponents of being a "shifty" politician.


US Senator George F Hoar, a Massachusetts political contemporary, said Wilson was a "skilful, adroit, and practiced and constant political manager" and "the most skilled political organizer in the country" during his career.


Henry Wilson is recognized for being a political pioneer in techniques for determining public opinion while he held office.


On October 28,1840, Henry Wilson married Harriet Malvina Howe.


Henry Wilson attained success in the 31st and 104th Regiments of United States Colored Troops, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel and second-in-command of the 104th in July 1865.


In 1869 Henry and Harriet Wilson became the de facto adoptive parents of a girl, Evangelina, who was born between 1864 and 1866, and took the name Eva Wilson.


Henry Wilson agreed to provide them a suitable home and financial support, but had not followed through by the time of his death.


Henry Wilson had given Coolidge oral instructions and letters, and the situation became complicated because Henry Wilson's death occurred before he had incorporated these additional instructions into his will.