Benjamin F. Wade
Benjamin Franklin “Bluff” Wade (October 27, 1800 – March 2, 1878) was an American politician who served as one of the two United States Senators from Ohio from 1851 to 1869. He is known for his leading role among the Radical Republicans. Had the 1868 impeachment of U.S. President Andrew Johnson led to a conviction in the Senate, as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, Wade would have become Acting President of the United States for the remaining months of Johnson’s term.
Born in Massachusetts, Wade worked as a laborer on the Erie Canal before establishing a law practice in Jefferson, Ohio. As a member of the Whig Party, Wade served in the Ohio Senate between 1837 and 1842. After a stint as a local judge, Wade was sworn into the United States Senate in 1851. An opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Kansas–Nebraska Act, Wade joined the nascent Republican Party as the Whigs collapsed. He established a reputation as one of the most radical American politicians of the era, favoring women’s suffrage, trade union rights, and equality for African-Americans.
During the Civil War, Wade was highly critical of President Abraham Lincoln’s leadership. In opposition to Lincoln’s post-war plans, Wade sponsored the Wade–Davis Bill, which proposed strict terms for the re-admittance of Confederate states. He also helped pass the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Morrill Act of 1862. In 1868, the House of Representatives impeached President Johnson for his defiance of the Tenure of Office Act. Wade’s unpopularity with his more moderate Republican colleagues may have been a factor in Johnson’s acquittal by the Senate. Wade lost his Senate re-election bid in 1868 but remained active in law and politics until his death in 1878.