A House Divided: How Ohio Politics Shaped the Civil WarNext Page →
Joshua Giddings was born in Tioga Point, Pennsylvania. He moved with his family to Ashtabula, Ohio in 1806 when he was only eleven years old. Giddings spent much of his time working on his family's farm and therefore never received a formal education. Despite his lack of education, he was an extremely well read individual. In 1821 Giddings passed the Ohio bar examination and partnered with his good friend Benjamin F. Wade. Both men were staunch abolitionists and it is even speculated that Giddings' Ashtabula home served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Giddings' political career began in 1825 when he was elected to the Ohio General Assembly and served until 1828. In 1837 he was elected to the House of Representatives as a Whig Party member. In 1842 Giddings openly supported the freedom of slaves who rebelled on the slave ship Creole by introducing a series of resolutions to the House of Representatives. His critics attacked him and the House eventually formally censured him. Giddings resigned his seat but was immediately reelected by his constituents. Giddings reelection sent a powerful message to Congress that anti-slavery sentiment was growing in the North and could not be stifled much longer.
Giddings served in the House of Representatives until 1859. In 1861 President Lincoln appointed him as the United States Consul General to Canada, a position he maintained for the majority of the war. Unfortunately, Giddings never saw the war end or the slaves freed. He died May 27, 1864.