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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GIDDINGS, JOSHUA REED - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GIDDINGS, JOSHUA REED (6 Oct. 1795-27 May 1864) represented Cleveland for about half of his 20-year tenure as one of the most renowned antislavery leaders in the U.S. Congress. Born in Tioga Point (later Athens), Pa., he was moved in infancy by his parents, Joshua and Elizabeth Pease Giddings, to Canandaigua, N.Y. In 1805 the family moved again to Ashtabula County, O., where Giddings completed his common-school education and saw service in the WAR OF 1812. In 1819 he married the former Laura Waters and 2 years later, after reading law with Elisha Whittlesey of Canfield, O., he was admitted to the bar. He opened a law office in the Ashtabula County seat of Jefferson, taking Benjamin F. Wade as a partner and serving a term (1826) in the Ohio House of Representatives. Not long after his conversion to the antislavery movement, Giddings was elected as a Whig in 1838 to succeed Whittlesey in the U.S. House of Representatives. He joined a small group of like-minded Congressmen in the Washington boarding house of Mrs. Spriggs and in 1842 was censured by the House for offering a series of resolutions in support of the slave mutineers on the coastwise slaving vessel Creole. Immediately resigning his seat, Giddings returned to the WESTERN RESERVE and was vindicated by an overwhelming re-election. Congressional redistricting brought Cleveland and Cuyahoga County into his district from 1844-53. During that period Giddings left the Whigs for the Free Soil party and sponsored national Free Soil conventions in Cleveland to formulate policy and strategy in 1849 and 1851. Following the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, he helped draft the "Appeal of the Independent Democrats" and assisted in the formation of the Republican party. Although denied renomination in 1858, Giddings secured the affirmation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence in the 1860 Republican national platform by threatening a one-man bolt of the convention. In 1858 he published The Exiles of Florida, which was followed in 1864 by History of the Rebellion: Its Authors and Causes. Appointed U.S. Consul General to Canada by President Lincoln in 1861, Giddings died in Montreal. He was survived by his wife and 5 children: Comfort, Joseph, Lura Maria, Grotius, and Laura Ann.

Stewart, James Brewer. Joshua R. Giddings and the Tactics of Radical Politics (1970).

Last Modified: 16 Jul 1997 01:42:30 PM

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