Browning, Orville H.
Born: 1806-02-10 Cynthiana, Kentucky
Died: 1881-08-10 Quincy, Illinois
In 1829, Browning graduated from Augusta College in Kentucky. While there, he was assistant clerk in the circuit court. Browning then studied law in an office in Cynthiana, Kentucky. In 1831, he was admitted to the bar and moved to Quincy, Illinois. The following year, Browning volunteered in the Illinois militia to serve in the Black Hawk War. Browning practiced law in Quincy and traveled the western Illinois circuit. In 1836, he married Eliza Caldwell in Quincy. In 1837, he joined Nehemiah Bushnell in a law partnership that lasted until Bushnell's death in 1873. Browning & Bushnell maintained a large practice in western Illinois courts, in the Illinois Supreme Court, and in Illinois federal courts, and they often participated in cases with or against Abraham Lincoln. As early as 1832, Browning was involved in Whig Party politics in Quincy. He won election to the Illinois Senate in 1836, representing Adams County, and served until 1840. He won election as state representative in 1842 but lost a bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in 1843. Browning also failed to win a seat in Congress in 1850 and 1852. In 1854, he became active in anti-Kansas-Nebraska politics and the formation of the Republican Party, and he remained active in Illinois Republican Party politics during the late 1850s. Browning was a delegate to the state Republican Party convention in 1860, which nominated Abraham Lincoln for President. Following Stephen A. Douglas's death in 1861, Illinois Governor Richard Yates appointed Browning to the U.S. Senate. Browning sought a seat on the United States Supreme Court after the death of Justice John McLean, but Lincoln appointed David Davis to the position instead. While Lincoln was president, Browning supported his handling of the border states, but he opposed the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. After losing his bid for reelection in 1863, Browning began a law partnership with Thomas Ewing, Edgar Cowan, and Britton Hall in Washington, DC. He did not campaign for Lincoln in the election of 1864.
Gravestone, Woodland Cemetery, Quincy, IL; Maurice G. Baxter, Orville H. Browning: Lincoln's Friend and Critic (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957); Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 726; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 205, 206, 210; Brian J. Kenny, "Browning, Orville Hickman," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 3:769-70. For material on Browning's legal cases against Abraham Lincoln, see Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.