Winthrop, Robert C.

Born: 1809-05-12 Boston, Massachusetts

Died: 1894-11-16 Boston, Massachusetts

Born into the prominent Winthrop family, Robert C. Winthrop attended Harvard College before studying law under Daniel Webster. He married Eliza Blanchard in 1831, with whom he had four children. The following year, Winthrop was admitted to the bar. He won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1834, and served until 1840 - acting as speaker from 1838-1840. A Whig, he strongly opposed the policies of Andrew Jackson, and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1840 in a special election prompted by the resignation of Abbott Lawrence. He resigned in 1842 due to Eliza's illness and subsequent death. He married twice more: to Laura Derby Welles from 1859 to her death in 1861 and to Adele Granger in 1865.

Winthrop regained his seat in 1843 and served in the House until 1848 - acting as speaker during Abraham Lincoln's term as a Representative. Following his two years as speaker, Winthrop assumed Webster's Senate seat until 1850. During his time in Congress, Winthrop vehemently opposed Texas annexation and the Mexican War, although he tempered his rhetoric as the Whig Party began to collapse during the late 1840s and early 1850s. As a result, he supported the Compromise of 1850 but this, along with political maneuvering to gain the speakership, cost him the support of many Massachusetts Whigs, who voted to give his Senate seat to Charles Sumner. His unpopularity with members of his own party also cost him election to the Massachusetts governorship that same year. He remained a loyal Whig throughout the 1850s and refused to join the new Republican Party due to its sectional nature. Nevertheless, he supported the Union war effort following the secession crisis but endorsed George B. McClellan's 1864 Democratic presidential campaign. Following McClellan's defeat, Winthrop largely retired from politics.

Robert C. Winthrop, A Memoir of Robert C. Winthrop (Boston: Little, Brown, 1897); Robert C. Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston: Little, Brown, 1852); Lloyd J. Graybar, "Winthrop, Robert Charles," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 23:670-72.