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.
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