Wade, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin "Bluff" Wade (October 27, 1800 – March 2, 1878) was a United States Senator during Civil War reconstruction known for his leading role among the Radical Republicans. Autograph Slip Writing Signed, n.d. - 4 x 2 Leaf: written in blk ink with lovely age-toning seen and a rich browning in letters seen. Overall, fine condition.
In March 1861, he became chairman of the Committee on Territories, and in July 1861, Wade, along with other politicians, witnessed the defeat of the Union Army at the First Battle of Bull Run. There, he was almost captured by the Confederate Army. After arriving back at Washington, he was one of those who led the attack on the supposed incompetence of the leadership of the Union Army.
From 1861 to 1862 he was chairman of the important Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, and in 1862, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, was instrumental in abolishing slavery in the Federal Territories.
During the American Civil War, Wade was highly critical of President Abraham Lincoln; in a September 1861 letter, he privately wrote that Lincoln’s views on slavery "could only come of one born of poor white trash and educated in a slave State."
He was especially angry when Lincoln was slow to recruit African-Americans into the armies, and actively advocated for the bill that abolished slavery and had a direct hand in the passing of the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Morrill Land Grand Act of 1862.
Wade was also critical of Lincoln's Reconstruction Plan; in December 1863, he and Henry Winter Davis sponsored a bill that would run the South, when conquered, their way. The Wade-Davis Bill mandated that there be a fifty-percent White male Iron-Clad Loyalty Oath, Black male suffrage, and Military Governors that were to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It passed in the lower chamber on May 4, 1864 by a margin of 73 ayes to 59 nays; in the upper chamber on July 2, 1864 it passed by a similar percentage of 18 ayes to 14 nays and was brought to Lincoln’s desk.
Tradition has it that Zachariah Chandler asked him directly if 'he plan on signing it or no?’ and Lincoln replied, ‘it was put before him with too little time to be signed in that way.’
On July 4, 1864, he pocket-vetoed the bill by refusing to sign it. Lincoln later said that he didn’t want to be held to one Reconstruction policy. This action drove Wade to sign, along with Davis, the Wade-Davis Manifesto, which accused the president of seeking reelection by the executive establishment of new state governments.
On July 28, 1866, the 39th Congress passed an act to adjust the peacetime establishment of the United States military.
Wade proposed that two of the cavalry regiments should be composed of African American enlisted personnel. After strong opposition, the legislation was passed which provided for the first black contingent in the regular U.S. Army consisting of six regiments: 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments. These units made up of black enlisted personnel and white officers were not the first of such units to serve on the Western Frontier.
During late 1865 through early 1866, companies from the 57th US Colored Infantry Regiment and the 125th United States Colored Infantry Regiment had been assigned to posts in New Mexico Territory to provide protection for settlers in the area, and escort those going further west.
Wade, along with most other Radical Republicans, was highly critical of President Andrew Johnson (who became President after Lincoln's assassination). Wade supported the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights Bills (which he succeeded in extending to the District of Columbia) and was a strong partisan of the 14th Amendment.
He also strengthened his party in Congress by forcefully advocating the admission of Nebraska and Kansas. These actions made him so prominent that at the beginning of the 40th Congress (in 1867), Wade became the President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, which meant that under the law of that time he was next in line for the presidency (as Johnson had no vice president).
After many fallouts with the Republican-dominated Congress, the Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Johnson (who had been a Democrat). When Johnson was impeached, Wade was sworn in as one of the senators sitting in judgment, but was greatly criticized because of his unseemly interest in the outcome of the trial. Although most senators believed that Johnson was guilty of the charges, they did not want the extremely radical Wade to become acting president. One newspaper wrote, “Andrew Johnson is innocent because Ben Wade is guilty of being his successor.”
In 1868, then-presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant was urged by his fellow Republicans to choose Wade as his vice presidential running mate; but he refused, instead choosing another radical, Schuyler Colfax, who coincidentally married Wade’s niece, Ellen Maria Wade, shortly after the election.
After being defeated in the 1868 elections, Wade returned to his Ohio law practice. Though no longer in politics, Wade continued to contribute to the world of law and politics.
He became an agent of the Northern Pacific Railroad, continued his party activities, became a member of the commission researching the likelihood of the purchase of the Dominican Republic in 1871 and served as an elector for Rutherford Hayes in the election of 1876.
He died on March 2, 1878, in Jefferson, Ohio.