Giddings, Joshua Reed (1795–1864)

2012-06-27 01:02:07

Joshua Giddings, a lawyer and abolitionist congressman, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, to farmers Joshua Giddings and Elizabeth Pease. Despite a childhood plagued with hard work, financial instability, and minimal education, Giddings taught himself to read and write. After his family moved to the Western Reserve, Giddings studied law under Elisha Whittlesey, a future U.S. representative. In 1838, Giddings quit law and successfully ran for U.S. Congress for Ohio’s Sixteenth District under the Whig nomination. He maintained the position until 1859, although he ran under the Free Soil and Republican Party tickets in ensuing years. Giddings continued to live in Ashtabula County until his death in 1864.

Giddings adhered to radical politics and was a staunch supporter of the abolitionist cause. By attempting reform within the confines of the U.S. Congress, Giddings became known as a radical and supported John Quincy Adams’s campaign against the gag rule, which severely limited debate on antislavery issues. This censure of the antislavery topic lasted from 1836 to 1844.

The gag rule did not stop Giddings’s efforts. In 1842, he introduced his Creole Resolutions, a declaration that supported the rebellion of slaves on the high seas. This resulted in a censure from the House of Representatives and, subsequently, a resignation from Giddings. Shortly after the incident Giddings’s district reelected him and he successfully returned to Congress. As years passed, Giddings became even more determined in his antislavery views and continued to work towards emancipation. Despite obstacles such as the gag rule and his censure, Joshua Giddings and other antislavery politicians managed to have their abolitionist views heard.


References and Further Reading

  • Gamble, Douglas A. ‘‘Joshua Giddings and the Ohio Abolitionists.’’ Ohio History 88 (Winter 1979): 37–56.
  • Giddings, Joshua R. An Expose of the Circumstances Which Led to the Resignation by the Hon. Joshua R. Giddings. Painesville, OH: J. Leonard & Co., Printers, 1842.
  • ———. Speeches in Congress. Boston: J. P. Jewett and Company, 1853.
  • ———. The Exiles of Florida: or, The Crimes Committed by our Government Against the Maroons, Who Fled From South Carolina and the Other Slave States, Seeking Protection Under Spanish Laws. Columbus, OH: Follett, Foster, 1858.
  • ———. History of the Rebellion; Its Authors and Causes. New York: Follet, Foster, 1864.
  • Julian, George W. The Life of Joshua R. Giddings. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co., 1892.
  • Stewart, James Brewer. Joshua R. Giddings and the Tactics of Radical Politics. Cleveland, OH: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1970.

See also Gag Rule