John S. Carlile

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John Snyder Carlile
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
July 9, 1861 – March 4, 1865
Preceded byRobert M. T. Hunter
Succeeded byJohn W. Johnston
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1855 – March 3, 1857
Preceded byCharles S. Lewis
Succeeded byAlbert G. Jenkins
In office
March 4, 1861 – July 9, 1861
Preceded byAlbert G. Jenkins
Succeeded byJacob B. Blair
Member of the Virginia Senate
In office
Personal details
Born(1817-12-16)December 16, 1817
Winchester, Virginia, U.S.
DiedOctober 24, 1878(1878-10-24) (aged 60)
Clarksburg, West Virginia, U.S.
Political partyUnionist
SpouseMary Ellen Gittings
ProfessionLawyer, politician

John Snyder Carlile (December 16, 1817 – October 24, 1878) was an American merchant, lawyer, slaveowner and politician, including a United States senator. A strong supporter of the Union cause during the American Civil War, he represented the loyalist faction of Virginia, which was eventually separated into two distinct states.


Carlile was born in Winchester, Virginia. He was educated by his mother until he was fourteen years old, when he became salesman in a store, and at the age of seventeen went into business on his own account. He then studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and began practice in Beverly. Entering politics, he joined the Democratic Party. He was selected as a delegate to the Virginia state constitutional convention in 1850. Carlile served in the Virginia State Senate from 1847 to 1851. He joined the new Know Nothing political movement in 1854 and represented Virginia's 11th District in the United States House for one term.

Carlile was a delegate from Harrison County to the Virginia secession convention in 1861, voting no on the controversial resolution. He was a leader in the anti-secession movement, and was prominent in the Wheeling Convention of June 1861. On June 13, 1861, at the first session of the Second Wheeling Convention, Carlile authored "A Declaration of the People of Virginia." The document pronounced Virginia's Ordinance of Secession illegal because the convention at which it had been drafted had been convened by the General Assembly, not by a referendum. It also called for the reorganization of the government of Virginia, arguing that due to Virginia's decision to secede from the United States, all state government offices had been vacated. The pro-Union Restored Government of Virginia was quickly recognized by President Abraham Lincoln and Congress as the legitimate government of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, with Wheeling as its provisional capital. He was averse, however, to the formation of a new state out of the bulk of the pro-Union territory of Virginia—what became West Virginia.

Carlile was again chosen to Congress in 1861 on a Unionist Party position, but kept his seat in the House of Representatives only from July 4 through July 13, when he was elected as one of two United States Senators representing the Restored Government. He served until 1865. In the Senate, he was uniformly in favor of a strict construction of the Constitution, opposing all measures recognizing that there existed a rebellion of states instead of individuals, and denying the right of Congress to interfere in any way with the slaves (Carlile being a slaveowner himself). He frequently met with Lincoln to try to garner his support for his causes.

Following the war, Carlile retired from politics and returned home to resume his law practice. He died in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

References and links[edit]

  • United States Congress. "John S. Carlile (id: C000150)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • John S. Carlile in Encyclopedia Virginia
  • Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson and John Fiske. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887–1889.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 11th congressional district

March 4, 1855 – March 4, 1857
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 11th congressional district

March 4, 1861 – July 9, 1861
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Virginia
July 9, 1861 – March 4, 1865
Served alongside: Waitman T. Willey, Lemuel J. Bowden
Succeeded by