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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Jones, George Wallace 1804 - 1896


pioneer settler, miner, politician, U.S. Senator from Iowa, diplomat, b. Vincennes, Ind. He graduated from Transylvania Univ., Lexington, Ky. (1825), and was admitted to the bar in 1826. In 1827 he moved to Wisconsin (then Michigan Territory), and settled near Sinsinawa Mound, Grant County, where he engaged in lead mining, smelting, and merchandising. A Democrat, Jones was delegate to Congress from Michigan Territory (1835-1836), and in this capacity was instrumental in securing the organization of Wisconsin Territory, as well as the appointment of Henry Dodge (q.v.) as territorial governor. He was Congressional delegate from Wisconsin Territory (1836-Jan. 18 39) but was defeated by James D. Doty (q.v.) in the election of 1838, partly because of his participation as a second in the fatal Graves-Cilley duel. Jones continued to hold his seat in Congress, claiming that his term of office had not expired. Doty contested this position, and Congress decided in Doty's favor. In 1840 Jones was appointed surveyor general of Iowa and Wisconsin territories, and held this office from 1840 to 1841 and from 1846 to 1848. After 1846 he made his home permanently in Dubuque. He was one of the first U.S. Senators representing the new state of Iowa in Congress (Dec. 1848-Mar. 1859). A Democrat of the old tradition, Jones had strong Southern sympathies and at one time had been a slave owner himself. In the Senate he supported the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, but his insistence on supporting the proslavery Lecompton Constitution for Kansas in 1858 cost him the Democratic nomination for the Senate in that year. In 1859 he was appointed by President Buchanan as U.S. minister to New Granada (Colombia) and served in Bogota until recalled by President Lincoln in 1861. On his return to the U.S., Jones was imprisoned by order of Secretary Seward for allegedly writing a treasonable letter to Confederate leader, Jefferson Davis. Although indiscreet in writing to his old school-mate, Jones' letter was far from treasonable, and he was released by order of President Lincoln after serving two months. He returned to Iowa in an attempt to vindicate himself, but his political career was ended. He lived in retirement in Dubuque until his death. Dict. Amer. Biog.; J. C. Parish, G. W. Jones (Iowa City, 1912); Biog. Dir. Amer. Gong. (1928).

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the†George Wallace Jones Papers†for details.†See also the†George Wallace Jones Miscellaneous Items.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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