Vice President Henry Wilson
Henry Wilson was an American statesman and the
18th Vice President of the United States (1873-75)
during President Ulysses S. Grant's second term.
He was also a 4-term U.S. Senator (1855-73), and
a writer/historian of Military Measures of the
United States Congress and History of the Rise
and Fall of the Slave Power in America. Wilson
was owner and editor of the antislavery periodical
Boston Republican (1848-51). He ranks as one of
the most effective and eloquent opponents of slavery
in 19th century U.S. politics.
Biographical fast facts
Full or original name at birth: Jeremiah Jones Colbath*
Date and place of birth: February 16, 1812,
Farmington, New Hampshire, U.S.A.
Date, time, place and cause of death: November 22, 1875,
at 7:20 a.m., U.S. Capitol Building, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. (Stroke)
Wife: Harriet Malvina Howe (m. 1840 - 1870) (her death)
Son: Henry Hamilton Wilson
Adopted daughter: Eva Wilson
Father: Winthrop Colbath, Jr. (a laborer) (b. April 7, 1787,
Farmington, New Hampshire - d. February 10, 1860, Natick, Massachusetts)
Mother: Abigail Colbath (b. March 21, 1785 - d. August 8, 1866)
Burial site: Old Dell Park Cemetery, Natick, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Error correction or clarification
* His father named him after
a wealthy bachelor neighbor in a futile attempt
to receive an inheritance from him. A child of
extreme poverty, he would serve 11 years as an
indentured laborer, beginning when he was just
10 years of age. He grew to hate his name, and
upon his release at age 21, he had it legally
changed on the advice of the family with whom
he had lived and been indentured from age 10-21.
He chose the name Henry Wilson, inspired by a
biography he'd read.
"Wilson" by John Greenleaf Whittier
Read at the Massachusetts Club on the seventieth
anniversary of the birthday of Vice-President Wilson,
February 16, 1882.
The lowliest born of all the land,
He wrung from Fate's reluctant hand
The gifts which happier boyhood claims;
And, tasting on a thankless soil
The bitter bread of unpaid toil,
He fed his soul with noble aims.
And Nature, kindly provident,
To him the future's promise lent;
The powers that shape man's destinies,
Patience and faith and toil, he knew,
The close horizon round him grew,
Broad with great possibilities.
By the low hearth-fire's fitful blaze
He read of old heroic days,
The sage's thought, the patriot's speech;
Unhelped, alone, himself he taught,
His school the craft at which he wrought,
His lore the book within his, reach.
He felt his country's need; he knew
The work her children had to do;
And when, at last, he heard the call
In her behalf to serve and dare,
Beside his senatorial chair
He stood the unquestioned peer of all.
Beyond the accident of birth
He proved his simple manhood's worth;
Ancestral pride and classic grace
Confessed the large-brained artisan,
So clear of sight, so wise in plan
And counsel, equal to his place.
With glance intuitive he saw
Through all disguise of form and law,
And read men like an open book;
Fearless and firm, he never quailed
Nor turned aside for threats, nor failed
To do the thing he undertook.
How wise, how brave, he was, how well
He bore himself, let history tell
While waves our flag o'er land and sea,
No black thread in its warp or weft;
He found dissevered States, he left
A grateful Nation, strong and free!
The most in-depth of more than two dozen sources
consulted in preparing this profile, was
the biography, The Life and Public Services
of Henry Wilson, Late Vice-President of the
United States, by Elias Nason and Thomas Russell (1876).
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