Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Wilson, Henry (1812-1875) to Theodore Parker

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC08889 Author/Creator: Wilson, Henry (1812-1875) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 14 March 1857 Pagination: 4 p. ; 25.1 x 20.3 cm.

Summary of Content: Senator Wilson thanks Reverend Parker for Parker's recent criticism of Wilson's speech on the topic of slavery and states' rights. Defends himself, stating "I deny the right of any state or nation to hold men in slavery, but I maintain the right of every state or nation to settle that question. I do not believe I have any right by legal action to settle that question for every state in the Union any more that I have to settle it for the people of any other nation..." Believes states' rights must be maintained to preserve United States' citizens status as a free people. Discusses his differences with abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Phillips (possibly Wendell Phillips). States that his speech was advised by Seward (possibly Senator William Henry Seward). Declares that Massachusetts abolitionists "have but little idea of the bad thing they put upon our friends in N.J., Pa, Ind, & Ill." Writes that his party (Republican) was "was beaten by the disunion cry in 1856 and we shall be again if we do not avoid it." States that he praised Garrison and Phillips in previous speeches. Relates that the Liberator, Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, contained criticism of him. Writes that Sumner (Charles Sumner, an ardent opponent of slavery) and Giddings (possibly Joshua Reed Giddings, also a noted opponent of slavery) have been absent, or silent, during his criticism by other abolitionists.

Background Information: Wilson served as a United States Senator from Massachusetts 1853-1872 and as Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant 1873-1875. Seward served as a United States Senator from New York 1849-1860. ...Sumner was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts 1851-1874. Giddings was a U.S. Senator from Ohio 1837-1858. All of these men were known opponents of slavery.See More

People: Wilson, Henry, 1812-1875
Parker, Theodore, 1810-1860
Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879
Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884
Seward, William Henry, 1801-1872
Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874
Giddings, Joshua Reed, 1795-1864

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: States' RightsSlaveryAfrican American HistoryAbolitionPoliticsRepublican PartyGovernment and CivicsVice President

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources