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William Woodbridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Woodbridge
William Woodbridge.jpg
United States Senator
from Michigan
In office
March 4, 1841 – March 4, 1847
Preceded byJohn Norvell
Succeeded byAlpheus Felch
2nd Governor of Michigan
In office
January 7, 1840 – February 23, 1841
LieutenantJ. Wright Gordon
Preceded byStevens T. Mason
Succeeded byJ. Wright Gordon
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan Territory's at-large congressional district
In office
March 4, 1819 – August 9, 1820
Preceded bynone
Succeeded bySolomon Sibley
3rd Secretary of Michigan Territory
In office
October 15, 1814 – January 15, 1828
PresidentJames Madison
Preceded byReuben Atwater
Succeeded byJames Witherell
Member of the Ohio House of Representatives
In office
Member of the Ohio Senate
In office
Member of the Michigan Senate
In office
Personal details
Born(1780-08-20)August 20, 1780
Norwich, Connecticut
DiedOctober 20, 1861(1861-10-20) (aged 81)
Detroit, Michigan
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Juliana Trumbull

William Woodbridge (August 20, 1780 – October 20, 1861) was a U.S. statesman in the states of Ohio and Michigan and in the Michigan Territory prior to statehood. He served as the second Governor of Michigan and a United States Senator from Michigan.

Early life in Connecticut and politics in Ohio

Woodbridge was born in Norwich, Connecticut, and as a child moved with his family to Marietta, Ohio in about 1790. He began the study of law in Marietta and developed a close friendship with Lewis Cass. He returned to Connecticut to complete his law studies, and after returning to Ohio, was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1806 where he began a practice in Marietta, Ohio. In June 1806, he married Juliana Trumbull, the daughter of John Trumbull.

He was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives in 1807, and was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1808, serving from 1809 to 1814. He was also the prosecuting attorney for New London (now Washington County, Ohio) from 1808 to 1814.

Politics in Michigan Territory

In 1814, Woodbridge's old friend Lewis Cass, who had become Governor of the Michigan Territory, encouraged him to accept appointments as Secretary of the Territory and as the collector of customs at the Port of Detroit. On October 15, 1814, Woodbridge reluctantly accepted the appointments from President James Madison and moved to Detroit, Michigan. During the frequent absences of Cass, Woodbridge served as acting governor. In 1817, Woodbridge became a trustee of the University of Michigan.

Under the rules of territorial government, the territory did not have representation in the U.S. Congress. Woodbridge influenced Congress to pass legislation authorizing the selection of a non-voting delegate to Congress. Woodbridge became the Michigan Territory's first delegate, serving in the 16th Congress from March 4, 1819, to his resignation on August 9, 1820 due to illness in his family. Solomon Sibley succeeded Woodbridge as delegate. He remained the Territorial Secretary while delegate.

As a delegate, Woodbridge worked for the passage of legislation that recognized old French land titles in the territory according to the terms of the previously signed treaties. He also secured approval for the construction of government roads from the Great Miami River to Detroit, and from Detroit to Chicago. He was also a strong advocate for Michigan's claim to the Toledo Strip, which was disputed with the state of Ohio.

In 1828, he was appointed one of three Territorial Supreme Court justice by President John Quincy Adams, succeeding James Witherell and serving in this capacity until 1832 when his term expired and President Andrew Jackson chose a replacement who was not from the Whig Party as Woodbridge was.

Politics and Governorship in the State of Michigan

Woodbridge was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1835 and a member of the Michigan State Senate from 1838 to 1839. He was elected as the second Governor of Michigan in 1840, leading the Whig Party to sweeping statewide victories under the slogan "Woodbridge and reform" (along with William Henry Harrison's national campaign). He resigned as governor on February 23, 1841 to take a seat in the United States Senate and was succeeded by his Lieutenant Governor, J. Wright Gordon.

Woodbridge was elected to the Senate by the Michigan Legislature and served from March 4, 1841, to March 4, 1847. He was only one of two Whig Senators who represented Michigan, alongside Augustus S. Porter whom he served with for most of his term. Woodbridge served as chairman of the Committee on Public Lands in the 28th Congress from 1843 to 1844, and of the Committee on Patents and the Patent Office in the 29th Congress from 1845 to 1846. He did not seek reelection.

Retirement and death

After leaving the Senate, he retired from public life and devoted his time to horticulture. He died in Detroit and is interred there in Elmwood Cemetery.

The following bear his name:


  • United States Congress. "William Woodbridge (id: W000709)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Benjamin Harrison and Governor Woodbridge
  • "s.v. Hon. William Woodbridge". Cyclopedia of Michigan. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Library. 2005 [1900]. pp. 162–163. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  • Political Graveyard
  • memorial library
Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Christopher Trowbridge
Whig nominee for Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
Philo C. Fuller
Political offices
Preceded by
Reuben Atwater
Secretary of Michigan Territory
October 15, 1814 – January 15, 1828
Succeeded by
James Witherell
Preceded by
Stevens T. Mason
Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
J. Wright Gordon
Ohio House of Representatives
New district Representative from Washington and Athens Counties
Served alongside: Leonard Jewett
Succeeded by
Simeon Pool
William R. Putnam
Ohio Senate
Preceded by
Leonard Jewett
Senator from Washington and Athens Counties
Succeeded by
William R. Putnam
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
New seat
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan Territory

March 4, 1819 – August 9, 1820
Succeeded by
Solomon Sibley
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John Norvell
 U.S. senator (Class 2) from Michigan
Served alongside: Augustus S. Porter, Lewis Cass
Succeeded by
Alpheus Felch
This page was last edited on 20 September 2020, at 04:12
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