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William B. Giles: A Featured Biography

William B. Giles

Senator William Branch Giles of Virginia was 42 years old when he entered the Senate in 1804, having already served ten years in the House of Representatives. As a Representative during the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams, Giles was a leading Republican opponent of the Federalist administrations’ policies, criticizing Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s financial program as well as the Jay Treaty and the Alien and Sedition Acts. In the Senate, with Republicans in the majority, Giles continued to be a leader and a skilled debater. Giles led a faction of the party that was critical of President James Madison’s administration, successfully blocking the president’s nomination of Albert Gallatin to be secretary of state and urging preparedness for a possible war with Great Britain. As chairman of a committee appointed to respond to President Madison’s military proposals in 1810, Giles advocated increasing American naval armaments as well expanding the size of the army. Giles claimed that he did not want war, but stressed the need to be prepared in case war came.

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