From Ohio History Central
Portrait of Joshua R. Giddings
Joshua Reed Giddings was an abolitionist. He spent most of his life in Ohio and represented the state in the United States House of Representatives.
Giddings was born in Tioga Point, Pennsylvania, on October 6, 1795. In 1806, Giddings and his family moved to Ashtabula County, Ohio. He received no formal education, spending most of his youth working on his father's farm. Despite his lack of education, Giddings was an avid reader, and in 1821, he succeeded in passing the Ohio bar exam. He spent the next sixteen years, earning a living as an attorney. During this time, Giddings also became good friends with and a partner of Benjamin F. Wade. In 1825, Giddings also embarked upon a political career, winning election to the Ohio General Assembly. He served in this body from 1826 to 1828.
In 1837, Giddings returned to politics, winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig Party member. He represented his district from 1838 until 1842, when he resigned his seat after the House of Representatives censured him for supporting the freedom of slaves who rebelled on the slave ship Creole. In 1842, his constituents returned him to the House of Representatives, where he served until 1859. During his latter years in Congress, Giddings became one of the founders and a member of the Republican Party. During his time in Congress, Giddings was a vocal supporter of the end to slavery. His Ashtabula County home reportedly was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Giddings as the United States Consul General to Canada. Giddings died on May 27, 1864, while serving in this capacity.
Giddings's life illustrates the growing unhappiness many white Americans, especially Northerners, had with slavery. As the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries progressed, numerous whites began to question the morality and justness of the institution. While abolitionists like Giddings were a definite minority, their attitudes towards slavery characterized politics in the 1840s and 1850s and helped divide the North and the South.
- Stewart, James Brewer. Joshua R. Giddings and the Tactics of Radical Politics. Cleveland, OH: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1970.
- Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.
- Julian, George Washington. The Life of Joshua R. Giddings. Chicago, IL: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1892.