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U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, etc.
Silas Wright was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on May 24, 1795, and grew up on his father's farm in Weybridge, Vermont, to which they moved in 1796. After graduating from Middlebury College (Vermont) in 1815, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1819, and commenced practice in Canton, New York.
Wright's political career began in 1821, when he became Surrogate of St. Lawrence County, New York. He served in this position until 1824, when he entered the New York State Senate. During his tenure in that body, he vehemently opposed the political advancement of De Witt Clinton, who he believed to be dangerous to the Democratic Party. He left the State Senate in 1827 to join the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from March 4, 1827 to February 16, 1829. During this period, he voted in favor of the Tariff of 1828, and for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. He resigned from this position to become Comptroller of New York, in which capacity he served until resigning to join the U.S. Senate.
Replacing William L. Marcy, who had resigned, in the Senate on January 11, 1833, Wright ultimately served until December 1, 1844. In the Senate, Wright supported the use of federal troops to enforce the collection of tariffs in South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis, as well as Henry Clay's compromise tariff bill of 1833 that ultimately ended the crisis. He subsequently defended President Andrew Jackson's removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States, and delivered a speech opposing Daniel Webster's motion to recharter the bank. Other actions taken by Wright during his Senate tenure included: voting against receiving a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, voting in favor of the exclusion from the mails of all "printed matter calculated to excite the prejudices of the southern states in regard to the question of slavery," opposing the distribution of surplus federal revenues among the states, supporting President Martin Van Buren's independent treasury scheme, and voting in favor of both the Tariff of 1842 and the annexation of Texas. In 1844, Wright declined the Democratic nomination for Vice-President.
Wright resigned from the U.S. Senate to become Governor of New York, in which position he served from January 1, 1845 to January 1, 1847. As Governor, he opposed the calling of a convention to revise the state constitution (but it took place anyway), vetoed a bill to appropriate money for canal improvements, and declared Delaware County in a state of insurrection and called out a military force during anti-rent riots. Achievements of his administration included establishment of the University of Buffalo and a restructuring of the state school system.
Defeated for re-election, Wright retired to his farm, which he worked with his own hands. In April of 1847, while the application of the Wilmot Proviso to the territories that had been obtained from Mexico was under discussion, he emphatically declared that "the arms and the money of the Union ought never to be used for the acquisition of territory for the purpose of planting slavery." In May of 1847, he wrote a letter expressing himself in favor of using the money of the federal government to improve the harbors of the northern lakes. He died at his farm on August 27, 1847, and was buried in the Old Canton Cemetery.
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This page was last updated on August 27, 2018.