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Henry Wilson
1812-1875
 


Statesman. Active Abolitionist.
Vice President of the United States.


Though not too well known, Henry Wilson played one of the most effective roles in ending the institution of slavery in America. He was born February 12, 1812, in Farmington, New Hampshire, a descendant of Scottish emigrants to the U.S. in the early 18th century. He was christened Jeremiah Jones Colbaith but had his name changed legally to Henry Wilson. As a boy, Wilson was indentured to a farmer until he was 21. He read widely, took up shoemaking, and attended schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. On a visit to Washington, D.C. at age 24, he was offended by Negro slavery which he vowed he would try to end. He entered political life and became a Massachusetts state representative and state senator. Wilson also was active in the military, rising from the rank of major to brigadier general. He bought the newspaper Boston Republican and battled the admission of Texas as a slave state. Soon after becoming a U.S. Senator in 1851 he became embroiled with Southern congressmen on the issue of slavery In 1861 he introduced a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. It was enacted into law. In 1872 he was elected vice president on the ticket with President Ulysses S. Grant. Wilson wrote voluminously on the American problem of slavery which he denounced as anti-Christian. He also wrote several volumes on the history of anti-slavery measures of the U.S. Congress. The abolition of slavery was due in no small part to the persistence of men like Henry Wilson. He made enemies as a result of his uncompromising stand on this issue, but great admiration followed his death in Washington on November 22, 1875. Congress directed that the eulogies on Henry Wilson be published.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546

2014