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Wade, Benjamin F.

Born: 1800-10-27 Feeding Hills, Massachusetts

Died: 1878-03-02 Jefferson, Ohio

Wade received little formal education due to his parents’ relative poverty. He moved to Andover, Ohio, and worked a variety of jobs before studying law, resulting in his admittance to the bar in 1828. He relocated to Jefferson that same year and opened a law partnership with Joshua R. Giddings in 1831. Wade earned appointment as the county prosecuting attorney in 1836 and won election to the Ohio Senate as a Whig in 1837. He lost his seat in 1839, in part due to his anti-slavery views, but won it back in 1841. Also in 1841, he married Caroline M. Rosecrans, with whom he had two children.

Having terminated his partnership with Giddings, Wade began a new one with Rufus P. Ranney and won election as judge of the third judicial district in 1847. In 1850, Wade owned $4,700 in real property. Wade opposed the Compromise of 1850 and denounced the Fugitive Slave Law, which led to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1851, where he remained until 1868. By 1860, Wade had amassed over $23,000 in real and personal property. While in the Senate, Wade joined a group of anti-slavery senators who would help create the Republican Party and consistently pressured President Abraham Lincoln to adopt an emancipationist policy during the Civil War. At the outbreak of the war, Wade was a member of the Committee of Thirteen but opposed any compromise measures with the South. He also served as chairman on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, where he repeatedly attacked the generalship of George B. McClellan. He was also heavily involved in passing the Homestead and Morrill Land Grant acts. Perhaps Wade's most significant wartime act was his formulation of the Wade-Davis Bill with Henry Winter Davis which overturned Lincoln's ten percent reconstruction plan and insisted that a majority of state residents take an oath of allegiance before a state could be readmitted to the Union and also permanently abolished slavery in the seceded states. Because Lincoln used a pocket veto on the bill, Wade and Davis drafted the Wade-Davis Manifesto accusing Lincoln of basing his reconstruction plan on electoral politics which cost Lincoln support in the 1864 election, although Wade eventually endorsed him.

Hans L. Trefousse, "Wade, Benjamin Franklin," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 22:431-32; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Jefferson, Ashtablua County, OH, 381; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Jefferson, Ashtablua County, OH, 55; Gravestone, Oakdale Cemetery, Jefferson, OH.