William Sprague III

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William Sprague
William Sprague 1799 1856.jpg
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
In office
February 18, 1842 – January 17, 1844
Preceded by Nathan F. Dixon
Succeeded by John B. Francis
14th Governor of Rhode Island
In office
May 2, 1838 – May 2, 1839
Preceded by John B. Francis
Succeeded by Samuel Ward King
Personal details
Born (1799-11-03)November 3, 1799
Cranston, Rhode Island
Died October 19, 1856(1856-10-19) (aged 56)
Providence, Rhode Island
Political party Whig

William Sprague, also known as William III or William Sprague III (November 3, 1799 – October 19, 1856), was a politician and industrialist from the U.S. state of Rhode Island, serving as the 14th Governor, a U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator. He was the uncle of William Sprague IV, also a Governor and Senator from Rhode Island.

Biography[edit]

William Sprague was the son of William Sprague [1773-1836] and Anna Potter [1763-1828]. He was born in the Gov. William Sprague Mansion in Cranston, Rhode Island, and pursued classical studies as a student. He engaged in mercantile pursuits and was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, serving as speaker from 1832 to 1835 and leading a coalition of Anti-Masonic and Democratic Party members.[1]

He was elected as an at-large candidate from the Whig Party to the Twenty-fourth Congress and served from March 4, 1835, to March 4, 1837. He declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1836. He was elected Governor of Rhode Island in 1838. He subsequently was elected as a Whig to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Nathan F. Dixon and served from February 18, 1842, to January 17, 1844, when he resigned. He served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Enrolled Bills in the Twenty-seventh Congress. He was a U.S. presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1848.

His family fortune came from the cotton and paint manufacturing, and he assumed active control of the family business following the murder of his brother Amasa on December 31, 1843. The Senator took an active interest in the trial of the Gordon brothers for the murder. The trial resulted in one of the defendants being sent to the gallows, and remains highly controversial for the amount of anti-Irish bigotry involved. In 2011, the condemned man was posthumously pardoned by the Rhode Island governor.[1]

In addition to the family business, he was president of the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill Railroad, and of two banks. William has family an extended family that live in Utica, NY.[2] Sprague died in Providence, Rhode Island, and is interred in Swan Point Cemetery there.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Erika Niedowski, "RI governor pardons Irish man hanged in 1845", Associated Press, 2011-06-29.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Sprague, William". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  3. ^ "Notable Persons Interred at Swan Point Cemetery". Swan Point Cemetery. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hoffman, Charles, and Hoffman, Tess. Brotherliy Love: Murder and the Politics of Prejudice in Nineteenth-Century Rhode Island. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.
  • Knight, Benjamin. History of the Sprague Families, of Rhode Island. Santa Cruz: H. Coffin, 1881.
  • Warwick Beacon 29 May 2003 Lifebeats section, "Historic Homes" by Don D'Amato on Sprague's anti-masonic politics

External links[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Dutee Jerauld Pearce
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1835 – March 3, 1837
Succeeded by
Robert B. Cranston
Preceded by
John Brown Francis
Governor of Rhode Island
May 2, 1838 – May 2, 1839
Succeeded by
Samuel Ward King
United States Senate
Preceded by
Nathan F. Dixon
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
February 18, 1842 – January 17, 1844
Served alongside: James F. Simmons
Succeeded by
John B. Francis