James Rood Doolittle

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James Rood Doolittle
James rood doolittle.jpg
United States Senator
from Wisconsin
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1869
Preceded by Henry Dodge
Succeeded by Matthew H. Carpenter
Personal details
Born (1815-01-03)January 3, 1815
Hampton, New York, U.S.
Died July 27, 1897(1897-07-27) (aged 82)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Political party Republican, Democrat
Profession Politician, lawyer

James Rood Doolittle (January 3, 1815 – July 27, 1897) was an American politician who served as a senator from the state of Wisconsin from March 4, 1857, to March 4, 1869. He was a strong supporter of President Abraham Lincoln's administration during the American Civil War.[1][2]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Hampton, New York, Doolittle was the son of Reuben Doolittle. He attended Middlebury Academy in Wyoming, New York and in 1834, he graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, New York. He subsequently studied law and was admitted to the New York bar association in 1837.

He then established a law practice in Rochester. Doolittle moved to Warsaw, New York, in 1841. From 1847 to 1850, he was the district attorney for Wyoming County. He also served for a time as a colonel in the New York state militia. In 1851, Doolittle moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he served as a judge from 1853 to 1856.

U.S. Senator[edit]

Until the Missouri Compromise was repealed, Doolittle was a Democrat. He was elected and then re-elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 1857 and 1863, respectively. He was a delegate to the Peace conference of 1861 in Washington, D.C.

During his time as a senator, Doolittle was the Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs. Along with his colleague, Jacob Collamer of Vermont, Doolittle represented the minority view for the so-called Mason Report (June 1860), prepared by the Senate committee which investigated the John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry of October 1859.

During the Civil War, Doolittle supported many of President Lincoln's policies, and was active in representing Wisconsin's interests on Capitol Hill. During the summer recess of 1865, he visited the Indians west of the Mississippi River as chairman of a joint special committee which was charged with an inquiry into the condition of the Indian tribes and their treatment by the civil and military authorities of the United States. In the West the committee split into subcommittees which considered different regions with Doolittle participating in the inquiry into Indian affairs in the State of Kansas, the Indian Territory, and Colorado. The report of the committee, The Doolittle Survey of 1865, titled The Condition of the Tribes was issued January 26, 1867. The Senator was accused by the New York Times in 1872—when he was under consideration for appointment as Secretary of the Interior in a projected "reform cabinet" to be formed by Democratic presidential candidate Horace Greeley—of suppressing the report, as it contained information exposing the Indian ring, fraudulent suppliers of goods to the Indian tribes under treaty obligations. The Times alleged that the report was printed only after the Cincinnati Gazette obtained a copy of it.[3]

Doolittle took a prominent part in the debate on the various war and reconstruction measures, upholding the national government, but always insisting that the seceding states had never ceased to be a part of the Union. He strongly opposed the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on the ground that each state should determine questions of suffrage for itself.[4]

Later life[edit]

After he left Congress, he ran for Governor of Wisconsin in 1871 as a Democrat, but lost the election and subsequently retired from politics.

Doolittle returned to the Midwest and became a lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, while maintaining his residence in Racine. He served for a year as President of the University of Chicago, and spent many years on its staff as a professor in the law school, as well as serving on the Board of Trustees.

He was president of the National Union Convention of 1866 in Philadelphia, and also of the 1872 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, which adopted the nomination of Horace Greeley for the Presidency. He died of Bright's disease in Providence, Rhode Island on July 27, 1897,[5] and was interred in Mound Cemetery in Racine, Wisconsin.


  1. ^ Wisconsin History website
  2. ^ Political Graveyard site
  3. ^ "DOOLITTLE AND THE INDIANS.; What the Senator Knows About Suppressing Reports A Good Secretary of the Interior for Greeley's Reform Cabinet", New York Times, September 8, 1872
  4. ^ Wilson & Fiske 1891.
  5. ^ "Doolittle is Dead". The Topeka Daily Capital. July 28, 1897. p. 4. Retrieved June 3, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read


United States Senate
Preceded by
Henry Dodge
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Wisconsin
Served alongside: Charles Durkee and Timothy O. Howe
Succeeded by
Matthew H. Carpenter