By Philip R. Devlin
Steven Spielberg's movie Lincoln focuses on how our 16th President was able to garner the votes necessary in the House of Representatives to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for the 13th Amendment to be approved by Congress.
The vote there was 119-56, just meeting the necessary standard for adopting an amendment with two-thirds of the vote. The entire Connecticut Congressional delegation — 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat — all voted for the amendment; in fact, all Congressmen from New England, except for Democratic Congressman Lorenzo Sweat from Maine, voted in favor of it.
One of the Connecticut Congressmen who voted for the amendment was Henry Champion Deming. He, like Sen. Lyman Trumbull, was born and raised in Colchester and was also a graduate of Bacon Academy!
Deming pursued classical studies at Yale University, where he was an 1836 graduate. Additionally, he received a law degreee from Yale. Deming served in both the Connecticut House of Representatives and the state Senate before becoming mayor of Hartford for about six years.
Following his mayoral service, he enlisted as a colonel in the Connecticut 12th Regiment during the early years of the Civil War. His Hartford mayoral experience came in handy when he was appointed mayor of New Orleans during the war under martial law from October of 1862 until February of 1863. In March of 1863, Deming began his first of two terms in Congress as a member of the House of Representatives. It was during his first term that he voted in favor of the 13th Amendment.
Another Congressman from Connecticut with a New Orleans connection was Augustus Brandegee of New London. The son of a New Orleans cotton dealer, Brandegee, like Deming, attended Yale and practiced law before entering politics. Brandegee served as judge of the criminal court in New Haven before being elected to the Connecticut State House of Representatives. He then was elected as a Congressman in Washington from Connecticut’s 3rd District.
A friend of Abraham Lincoln, Brandegee was a passionate abolitionist. He, too, cast an important vote in favor of the 13th Amendment. Later, he served as mayor of New London for a single term. A widely respected man, Brandegee died in 1904 at age 76.
Unlike Brandegee and Deming, Congressman James E. English of New Haven did not pursue academics; instead, English was involved in the lumber business and worked as a carpenter as a young man. He, too, began his career in the Connecticut legislature, serving terms in both the House and the Senate before being elected to the national Congress as Connecticut’s only Democrat in its delegation. Nevertheless, English voted in favor of the 13th Amendment, reportedly leaving the side of his ill wife to cast a critical "yes" vote for the abolition of slavery.
Later, English was elected governor of Connecticut and also served an interim appointment in Washington as a Senator for just under a year. English died in 1890 just two days shy of his 78th birthday.
The least known and oldest member of the four-man Connecticut Congressional delegation was Rep. John Henry Hubbard of Litchfield County. Born in Salisbury in 1804, Hubbard studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1828. He also began his political career in the Connecticut legislature, serving as a Senator from 1847-49. He then was elected to the national Congress in 1863 as a Republican and served for two terms. He also cast an important vote for the 13th Amendment. Following his two terms, Hubbard resumed his practice of law. He died in 1872 at the age of 68.
Another Republican Congressman and Connecticut native named Hubbard came from Iowa's newly formed 6th District. Rep. Asahel W. Hubbard also voted in favor of the amendment. Hubbard was born and raised in Haddam, CT. His parents, Asahel Hubbard and Susannah Hubbard, lie buried in the New Ponsett Cemetery on Rt. 81 in Higganum.
Asehel was born on Jan. 19, 1819. Educated in Middletown, Asahel became a stonecutter; at 19, he moved to Rushville, Indiana. By 1841, Asahel Hubbard began to practice law in Rushville and soon was elected to the state house in Indiana from 1847-1849. He then moved to Sioux City, Iowa, in 1857, where he dabbled in real estate and the railroads before becoming a judge from 1859-1862. Hubbard then was elected from Iowa's newly formed 6th District to the House of Representatives, serving as a Congressman for 3 terms from 1863-1869. A Nebraska town — Hubbard, Nebraska — was named after him in 1880.
A Michigan Congressman named Charles Upson — born and raised in Southington, CT —a lso voted to end slavery. A Yale grad, Upson also taught school in Farmington before settling in Michigan. Upson practiced law in Kalamazoo before entering the political arena in Michigan. He was elected as a Republican to serve three terms in Congress from 1863-69. He then served in various political capacities in Michigan before his death in 1885 at age 64.
In addition to the six Connecticut natives above who voted for the 13th Amendment, seven other Congressmen from five other states with strong Connecticut connections voted for the 13th Amendment:
- Rep. John Denison Baldwin from Massachusetts was born in North Stonington.
- Rep. Cornelius Cole from California was a graduate of Wesleyan University.
- Rep. Henry L. Dames of Massachusetts was educated at Yale.
- Rep. Calvin T. Hulburd of New York attended Yale Law School.
- Rep. James Willis Patterson of New Hampshire was a principal of Woodstock Academy and studied theology in New Haven. Patterson was also a Dartmouth professor.
- Rep. Rufus Paine Spalding of Ohio attended Yale.
- Rep. William B. Washburn of Massachusetts also attended Yale.
Racism both in Connecticut and elsewhere in the nation did not end with the passage of the 13th Amendment; however, the role played by the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation in the passage of the 13th Amendment was noble and should be defended, as it moved the country further down the path toward addressing the persistent and vexing issue of racial discrimination.
Additionally, the role played by two other Connecticut natives — one a Congressman from Michigan and the other a Congressman from Iowa — should not be forgotten either, nor should we forget the role played by seven other Congressmen with strong Connecticut ties from five other states who voted for the end of slavery.