William Freeman Vilas
|United States Senator|
March 4, 1891 – March 3, 1897
|Preceded by||John Coit Spooner|
|Succeeded by||John Coit Spooner|
|33rd United States Postmaster General|
March 6, 1885 – January 6, 1888
|Preceded by||Frank Hatton|
|Succeeded by||Donald M. Dickinson|
|17th United States Secretary of the Interior|
January 16, 1888 – March 6, 1889
|Preceded by||Lucius Lamar|
|Succeeded by||John Willock Noble|
|Born||William Freeman Vilas|
July 9, 1840
Chelsea, Vermont, U.S.
|Died||August 27, 1908 (aged 68)|
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Education||University of Wisconsin, Madison (BA)|
Albany Law School (LLB)
|Allegiance|| United States|
|Service/branch|| United States Army|
• Union Army
|Unit||23rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
William Freeman Vilas (July 9, 1840 – August 27, 1908) was a member of the Democratic Party who served in the United States Senate for the state of Wisconsin from 1891 to 1897. He was a prominent Bourbon Democrat.
Life and career
Vilas was born in Chelsea, Vermont, the son of Esther Greene (Smilie) and Levi Baker Vilas, a politician. Vilas moved to Madison, Wisconsin with his family in 1851. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1858, and from the Albany Law School in 1860. He enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War and was a captain in the 23rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment and later served as the lieutenant colonel of that regiment.
Following the war, Vilas was a Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a regent of the University from 1880 to 1885 and 1898 to 1905. Vilas served as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1885, until he was appointed the Postmaster General between 1885 and 1888, and as Secretary of the Interior from 1888 to 1889, both under President Grover Cleveland.
He married Anna M. Fox, who had been born in the territory of Wisconsin. Their younger son died in early childhood and their elder daughter, Nellie, died in 1893. The surviving children were Henry and Mary Esther.
After leaving the cabinet, he led Wisconsin German Americans in the protest against the Bennett Law of 1889 which required schools to only use the English language. From 1891 until 1897 he was a member of the United States Senate, in which, during President Cleveland's second term, he was recognized as the chief defender of the Administration, and he was especially active in securing the repeal of the silver purchase clause of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. He was unsuccessful in an 1896 reelection bid, having been defeated by Senator John Coit Spooner.
Vilas was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1896, but withdrew after the adoption of the free-silver plank. He then became one of the chief organizers of the National Democratic Party, attended the convention at Indianapolis, and was chairman of its committee on resolutions. He was also the main drafter of the National Democratic Party's platform. Vilas, a favorite of the delegates, refused to run as the party's sacrificial lamb.
He is interred at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison, Wisconsin.
Vilas County, Wisconsin is named for William F. Vilas. Senator Vilas is also the namesake of the towns of Vilas, Colorado and Vilas, South Dakota. His childhood home in Madison is located in what is now the Langdon Street Historic District.
- Vilas, William Freeman 1840 - 1908 at www.wisconsinhistory.org
- Hinman, Ida (1895). The Washington Sketch Book, Supplement. Washington, DC: Hartman & Cadick. p. 11.
- Vilas County History
- Dawson, John Frank. Place names in Colorado: why 700 communities were so named, 150 of Spanish or Indian origin. Denver, CO: The J. Frank Dawson Publishing Co. p. 50.
- Chicago and North Western Railway Company (1908). A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways. p. 134.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Freeman Vilas.|
- United States Congress. "William Freeman Vilas (id: V000099)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on 2008-02-15
| United States Postmaster General
Served under: Grover Cleveland
Donald M. Dickinson
Lucius Q.C. Lamar
| U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Served under: Grover Cleveland
John W. Noble
John C. Spooner
| Senator from Wisconsin (Class 3)
with Philetus Sawyer (1891–1893)
John L. Mitchell (1893–1897)
John C. Spooner
|52nd||Senate: P. Sawyer • W. Vilas||House: N. Haugen • C. Barwig • G. Brickner • C. Babbitt • A. Bushnell • J. Mitchell • L. Miller • F. Coburn • T. Lynch|
|53rd||Senate: W. Vilas • J. Mitchell||House: N. Haugen • C. Barwig • G. Brickner • T. Lynch • H. Cooper • J. Babcock • P. Somers • O. Wells • G. Shaw • L. Barnes|
|54th||Senate: W. Vilas • J. Mitchell||House: H. Cooper • J. Babcock • M. Griffin • E. Sauerhering • T. Otjen • S. Barney • S. Cook • E. Minor • A. Stewart • J. Jenkins|