Term: Doolittle, James Rood 1815 - 1897
lawyer, orator, judge, U.S. Senator, b. Hampton, N.Y. He was educated at Geneva (later Hobart) College, N.Y., studied law, and was admitted to the bar (1837). An admirer of Van Buren, Doolittle campaigned for the Democrats in 1840; in 1847 he entered the anti-slavery fight as a Barnburner. In 1851 he came to Racine, practiced law, and was elected circuit judge in 1853 but resigned three years later. In 1856 when the state was aflame over the Booth case involving the Fugitive Slave Law, he became a Republican and won the four-way party fight and the subsequent election to a seat in the U.S. Senate. Although a vigorous anti-slavery man, Doolittle was a moderate Republican. He supported Lincoln wholeheartedly and, after re- election in 1863, continued to uphold the policies of Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson. This support, his opposition to radical reconstruction, and specifically, his violation of instructions from the Wisconsin legislature to vote for overriding the President's veto of the Civil Rights Bill, brought censure from his constituents. With Governor Fairchild's (q.v.) approval, the legislature passed a resolution asking Doolittle to resign. He refused, declaring in a Senate speech that he was independent of legislative dictation. Doolittle continued to aid Johnson by drawing up the call for, and serving as chairman of, the National Union convention at Philadelphia in August, 1866. Although he had won some favor at home through support of homestead and of rivers and harbors improvement bills, the growing antagonism to his reconstruction policies made reelection in 1869 impossible. He returned to the Democratic party and resumed his law practice in Chicago, but maintained a residence in Racine and unsuccessfully sought election to various offices in Wisconsin. A competent lawyer, a man of strong convictions, and a powerful and moving speaker, he was probably at his best as a political campaigner. Dict. Amer. Biog.; Wis. Mag. Hist., 17; Miss. Valley Hist. Review, 17; Proc. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 1909 (1910); WPA MS; J. R. Doolittle Papers.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the James Rood Doolittle Papers for details.
View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.
View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.
[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]