Wentworth, John

Born: 1815-03-05 Sandwich, New Hampshire

Died: 1888-10-16 Chicago, Illinois


Born into a political family, "Long John" Wentworth graduated from Dartmouth in 1836. He then moved to Chicago and began working for the Chicago Democrat. He studied law at Harvard and gained admittance to the Illinois bar in 1841. Two years later, Wentworth won election to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat. He remained there until 1850 and strongly endorsed the annexation of Texas and Mexican War, although he also supported the Wilmot Proviso. Wentworth temporarily broke with the Democrats after opposing the Compromise of 1850, but supported Franklin Pierce's presidential campaign and returned to Congress for another term in 1853 as a member of the party. However, Wentworth remained uncomfortable with the direction of the Democratic Party and opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He subsequently left the party and did not have an official affiliation when he became mayor of Chicago in 1857. He served two terms before earning appointment to the Illinois State Board of Education in 1861, where he remained until 1864. While in this position, Wentworth became the primary architect of the proposed 1864 Illinois constitution. He also protected Clement L. Vallandigham but remained personally committed to the Union war effort. Wentworth supported Abraham Lincoln's 1864 presidential campaign and won election to Congress again, this time as a Republican.

William G. Shade, "Wentworth, John," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 23:45-46; Don E. Fehrenbacher, Chicago Giant: A Biography of "Long John" Wentworth (Madison, WI: American History Research Center, 1957).