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Benjamin Wade: A Featured Biography

Committee Chairman, Senator Benjamin Wade
Library of Congress

Ohioan Benjamin Wade was one of the most influential members of the Civil War and Reconstruction-era Senate. Like his other Radical Republicans, Wade supported the abolition of slavery and called for civil rights for freedmen. He chaired the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War, which analyzed a broad range of issues, including Union military losses, the mistreatment of Union prisoners by Confederate forces, and the massacre of Cheyenne Indians. He co-authored the Wade-Davis Bill with Representative Henry Davis of Maryland to provide for the readmission to representation of rebel states upon meeting certain conditions, such as providing African American men the right to vote. President Lincoln pocket-vetoed the bill, preferring a more moderate reconstruction plan. Elected president pro tempore by the Senate in 1867, Wade was the next in line of presidential succession during President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial.


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