The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽName: Gideon Welles

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Born in the Connecticut town of Glastonbury, Gideon Welles graduated from the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy in Vermont (today, Norwich University). He first studied law, then began writing for the Hartford Times. In 1826, he became part-owner and editor of that newspaper, helping to transform it into a leading organ for the Democratic party and the Jackson administration. From 1827-1835, he served as a Democrat in the Connecticut state legislature where he sponsored a general incorporation law after which other states modeled similar legislation. In gratitude for his support, President Jackson named Welles as Hartford’s postmaster, a position he held from 1836-1841. For the next few years he concentrated on his editorial duties with the Times until 1845 when another Democratic president, James K. Polk, appointed him to head the Navy Department’s Bureau of Provisions and Clothing.

In the mid-1850s, Welles joined the new Republican party and, in 1856, ran unsuccessfully as the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut. In 1860, he served on the executive board of the Republican National Committee and as chair of the Connecticut delegation to the national convention in Chicago, where he helped defeat front-runner William Henry Seward. In 1861, President Lincoln selected Welles as his Secretary of the Navy. Welles continued at that post until the end of Andrew Johnson’s term, supporting the embattled President against the Radical Republicans. His three volume Diary provides an insider’s view of the Lincoln and Johnson administrations. Almost a decade after leaving office, he died in Hartford.

Robert C. Kennedy, HarpWeek

Sources consulted:  Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History; William Degregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents; and Lydia L. Rapoza, "Gideon Welles" on the Lydia L. Rapoza homepage.

Gideon Welles
(1 July 1802 - 11 February 1878)
Source:  The Civil War Day By Day

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