Joshua Reed Giddings

Joshua Reed Giddings ( born October 6, 1795 in Tioga Point, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, † May 27, 1864 in Montreal, Canada ) was an American lawyer and politician. From 1838 to 1859 he represented the State of Ohio in the House of Representatives of the United States. All his life he went against the oppression of man by man on first during the Second Seminolenkriegs (1835-1842), then as an ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery.


Giddings was born on October 6, 1795 in Athens today in Pennsylvania. In 1806 he moved with his family to Ohio in the Ashtabula County to, a then sparsely populated area, almost wild.

He worked on his father's farm with, but read and learned a lot. After 1814, he worked for several years as a teacher. In 1821 he was admitted to the bar. Soon he had built a thriving law firm that specialized in criminal defense. In 1838 he lost a large part of his fortune in the stock market and was thus forced to abandon the firm.

After Giddings had already represented from 1826 to 1828 his constituency in the House of Representatives from Ohio, he decided, for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington DC to stand. From December 1838 to March 1859 he was a member of the House of Representatives, to 1843 while for the 16th electoral district of Ohio, then for the 20th District. Giddings ran first for the Whigs, then as a free- Soiler and finally as a Republican.

With regard to the slavery represented Giddings the view that it is this was a device of the individual states and the U.S. government accordingly in this area could not be worked. This resulted in his view that slavery in the territory of the District of Columbia and in the territories was illegal and had to be abolished there; the same was true for the coastal trade in slaves under federal flag, this had to be stopped. Furthermore, Congress had by Giddens view no power to enact laws that would have meant a recognition of slavery at the federal level.

Giddings engaged in a particular extent in the case of Creole. It was about an American slave ship, which had been advised in 1841 following a revolt of slaves in their violence and taken by the rebels in the port of the British city of Nassau. The U.S. government demanded that Britain, the publication of the slaves, as they had been on an American ship. The process was not yet completed, as Giddings on March 21, 1842 brought several resolutions in the House of Representatives. He argued to the effect that slaves had not violated the laws of the United States, but only made their inalienable right to liberty of the person claimed. The United States should therefore refrain to demand the return of the slaves. Applications Giddings caused a sensation and scandal, the House of Representatives gave him a formal reprimand. Then Giddings put the deputy's mandate again, after which he was re-elected by a large majority.

Under the influence of his daughter Lura Mary and the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to be radicalized Giddings. He based his negative attitude to slavery no longer on the Constitution of the United States, but to the natural law.

Giddings led congressional opposition to the expansion of slavery and turned accordingly against the annexation of Texas ( 1846), the Mexican War ( 1846-1848 ), the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas - Nebraska Act of 1854. Throughout his life was he active supporter of the Underground Railroad.

In 1859 Giddings retired after more than 20 years of membership of the Congress after he had not been nominated for re-election. From 1861 until his death on 27 May 1864 in Montreal, he represented the United States as Consul General in Canada.


  • The exiles of Florida; or, The crimes committed by our government against the Maroons who fled from South Carolina and other slave states, seeking protection under Spanish laws. , Follett, Foster and Co., Columbus, O., 1858.
  • History of the rebellion: its authors and causes, Follet, Foster, New York, 1864.


  • Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 12
  • James W Eaton, Joshua R. Giddings: antislavery congressman, MA Thesis ( master's thesis ), Kent State University, 1967.
  • George Washington Julian, R. The life of Joshua Giddings, AC McClurg and Co., Chicago, 1892.
  • James Brewer Stewart, Joshua R. Giddings and the tactics of radical politics, Press of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, 1970.
  • " Giddings, Joshua Reed " in American national biography, Volume 8 (1999)