Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Bovay, Alvan E[arl] 1818 - 1903

Bovay, Alvan E[arl] 1818 - 1903 | Wisconsin Historical Society

teacher, lawyer, soldier, politician, b. Adams, N.Y. He graduated from Norwich (Vt.) Univ. (1841). After teaching for several years, he studied law and was admitted to the New York bar in 1846. In 1850 he moved to Ripon, where he set up a law practice and was one of the founders of Ripon College. Originally a Whig, in the 1850's Bovay conceived the idea of forming a new party based on the exclusion of slavery in the territories. On Feb. 28, 1854, he called a public meeting at the Congregational Church in Ripon. This group, considering possible passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill then being debated in Congress, resolved that steps should be taken to form a new Republican party to appeal to all those who opposed slavery in the territories. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed the Senate in March, Bovay called a second meeting (Mar. 20, 1854) to popularize the new party movement. The act went on to the House where it was debated and finally signed into law on May 30, 1854. On July 13, 1854, Bovay was secretary of a "People's Mass State Convention," made up of men of all political complexions; the group met on the Capitol grounds at Madison and resolved that they would accept the issue "forced upon us by the slave power," and would be known as Republicans. The new party was quick to achieve success in Wisconsin, securing the governorship in 1856, and remaining the dominant party in the state for many years. Bovay was a member of the state assembly (1859- 1860), and during the Civil War served as a major with the 19th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry (1861-1863). After the war, he returned to Ripon where he maintained his residence until the late 1880's. He then moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., and eventually to California. S. M. Pedrick, Life of A. E. Bovay (Ripon, Wis., n.d.); Milwaukee Sentinel, Jan. 30, 1903; A. M. Thomson, Political Hist. of Wis. (Milwaukee, 1900).

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[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]