William A. Wheeler
|William A. Wheeler|
|19th Vice President of the United States|
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
|President||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|Preceded by||Henry Wilson|
|Succeeded by||Chester A. Arthur|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 16th district|
March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863
|Preceded by||George W. Palmer|
|Succeeded by||Orlando Kellogg|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 17th district|
March 4, 1869 – March 3, 1873
|Preceded by||Calvin T. Hulburd|
|Succeeded by||Robert S. Hale|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 18th district|
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
|Preceded by||John M. Carroll|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Williams|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 19th district|
March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1877
|Preceded by||Henry H. Hathorn|
|Succeeded by||Amaziah B. James|
June 30, 1819|
Malone, New York
|Died||June 4, 1887
Malone, New York
|Spouse(s)||Mary King Wheeler (Died on March 3, 1876)|
|Alma mater||University of Vermont|
Early life and career
Wheeler was born in Malone, New York, and attended Franklin Academy and the University of Vermont, although monetary concerns forced him to drop out without graduating. He was admitted to the bar in 1845, practiced law in Malone, and was District Attorney of Franklin County from 1846 to 1849. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Franklin Co.) in 1850 and 1851; and of the New York State Senate (17th D.) in 1858 and 1859.
He was elected as a Republican to the 37th United States Congress, holding office from March 4, 1861, to March 3, 1863. He was President of the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1867-68. He was elected to the 41st, 42nd, 43rd and 44th United States Congresses, holding office from March 4, 1869, to March 3, 1877.
Wheeler was also President of the New York Northern Railroad.
When Congress voted a pay raise in 1873 and made it retroactive for five years, Wheeler not only voted against the raise, but returned his salary adjustment to the Treasury department.
Wheeler's reputation for honesty was celebrated by Allan Nevins in his introduction to John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. Roscoe Conkling, a Senator and a political boss offered "Wheeler, if you will act with us, there is nothing in the gift of the State of New York to which you may not reasonably aspire." Wheeler declined with "Mr. Conkling, there is nothing in the gift of the State of New York which will compensate me for the forfeiture of my self-respect." (John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage (New York, 1956), p. xiv.)
Wheeler was President of the New York State Constitutional Convention which met from June 1867 to February 1868. His acceptance speech gave a ringing endorsement for racial equality:
"[W]e owe it to the cause of universal civil liberty, we owe it to the struggling liberalism of the old world,...that every man within [New York], of whatever race or color, or however poor, helpless, or lowly he may be, in virtue of his manhood, is entitled to the full employment of every right appertaining to the most exalted citizenship."
Election of 1876
The convention was recessed for dinner, and as a favor to Roscoe Conkling, the party bosses announced that they would let the New York delegation pick the candidate for Vice President. As the delegation argued back and forth over prospective candidates and were unable to agree on any one of them, someone asked sarcastically "What about Wheeler?", and the next morning Wheeler was, much to everyone's surprise, nominated by acclamation. He won the nomination with 366 votes to the 89 for his nearest rival Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, who later served on the Electoral Commission.
Governor Hayes, when he heard of Wheeler's nomination, wrote to his wife Lucy: "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?" Hayes and Wheeler never served in the House of Representatives at the same time, so Hayes was unfamiliar with his running mate.
Vice Presidency (1877-1881)
He was inaugurated in March 4, 1877 and served until March 4, 1881.
Since Wheeler was a recent widower, his wife having died three months before he took the oath of office, he was a frequent guest at the White House's alcohol-free luncheons. As Vice President, Wheeler presided over the Senate. According to Hayes, Wheeler "was one of the few Vice Presidents who were on cordial terms, intimate and friendly, with the President. Our family were heartily fond of him."
Hayes had long announced that he would not run for a second term, and Wheeler was not mentioned for the 1880 Republican presidential nomination.
When his term was over, he retired from public life and active business pursuits because of ill health. On June 4, 1887, he died in his Malone, New York home. He was 67 years old. He was interred next to wife in Morningside Cemetery, Malone.
- William A. Wheeler at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Vice Presidents of the United States William A. Wheeler (1877-1881)
- David Quigley Second Founding: New York City, Reconstruction, and the Making of American Democracy (New York: Farrar. Straus, and Giroux - Hill and Wang, 2004), ISBN 0-8090-8514-3.
|Wikisource has the text of an Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th ed.) article about William A. Wheeler.|