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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Cole, Orsamus 1819 - 1903

Definition: lawyer, politician, Congressman, state supreme court justice, b. Cazenovia, N.Y. He graduated from Union College, Schenectady, N.Y. (1843), studied law, and was admitted to the bar (1845). In 1845 he moved to Wisconsin, settling in Potosi where he practiced law. A Whig, he was a member of the constitutional convention of 1847-1848, and in 1848 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from Mar., 1849, to Mar., 1851. In Congress he was numbered among the anti-slavery Whigs, and refused to support the fugitive slave provision in the Compromise of 1850. Defeated for re-election to Congress in 1850, during the next four years he ran unsuccessfully for various state offices and eventually joined the Republican party. In 1855, largely because of his position on the fugitive slave law, he was elected associate justice of the state supreme court over incumbent Democrat Samuel Crawford (q.v.) and took office in June of the same year. Successively re-elected, he was associate justice until Nov., 1880, when he was appointed chief justice to fill the vacancy caused by the death of E. G. Ryan (q.v.). He was elected chief justice in 1881 and served until his retirement in Jan., 1892. Proc. State Bar Assoc. Wis., 7 (1907); M. M. Quaife, Attainment of Statehood [Madison, 1928]; J. R. Berryman, ed., Bench and Bar of Wis. (2 vols., Chicago, 1898); Biog. Dir. Amer. Cong. (1928); J. B. Winslow, Story of a Great Court (Chicago, 1912); R. S. Hunt, Law and Locomotives (Madison, 1958); A. J. Beitzinger, E. G. Ryan (Madison, 1960); Wis. Mag. Hist., 15; WPA field notes.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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