Wade, Benjamin Franklin

Wade, Benjamin Franklin,

1800–1878, U.S. senator from Ohio (1851–69), b. near Springfield, Mass. He moved (1821) to Ohio and studied law. He was successively prosecuting attorney of Ashtabula co., state senator, and presiding judge of the third judicial district in Ohio before becoming a Whig senator. He was reelected as a Republican. An uncompromising abolitionist, he denounced the fugitive slave laws, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and other proslavery measures. During the Civil War, Wade and his radical Republican colleagues set up the meddlesome committee on the conduct of the war, of which he was chairman. The Wade-Davis Bill, drawn up with Representative Henry W. DavisDavis, Henry Winter,
1817–65, American political leader, b. Annapolis, Md. He was elected (1854) to the House of Representatives on the Know-Nothing ticket and was twice reelected (1856, 1858) with the aid of the Republican party.
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, was approved (July, 1864) by Congress as the committee's plan of ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
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. Lincoln, who had already begun a more lenient program, killed it with a pocket veto, for which he was vindictively attacked in the Wade-Davis Manifesto (Aug. 5, 1864). Later the congressional plan prevailed over the opposition of President Andrew Johnson. As president protempore of the Senate, Wade was next in line for the presidency, and he eagerly awaited Johnson's conviction on impeachment charges. Not long after Johnson's acquittal Wade was denied reelection to the Senate and returned to law practice.
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Wade, Benjamin Franklin

(1800–78) lawyer, public official; born in Springfield, Mass. Raised on a farm, he moved to Ohio at age 21, taught school and read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1831. He built a thriving practice before entering public life in the antislavery cause. Elected to the U.S. Senate (Whig, Ohio; 1851–56; Rep., 1856–69), he joined with congressional Radical Republicans to press for the emancipation of slaves and, after the Civil War, a punitive peace for the former Confederacy. As chairman of the powerful Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, he participated in investigations of every aspect of the federal war effort. He was among those who pursued the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson most vehemently; as president pro tempore of the Senate he would have succeeded Johnson as president and was so sure of a conviction that he actually began to select his cabinet. He retired from public life in 1869, resumed the practice of law, and became general counsel for the Northern Pacific Railway.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.