Silas Wright

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Silas Wright Jr.
Silas Wright, Jr. (Engraved Portrait).jpg
14th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1845 – December 31, 1846
LieutenantAddison Gardiner
Preceded byWilliam C. Bouck
Succeeded byJohn Young
United States Senator
from New York
In office
January 4, 1833 – November 26, 1844
Preceded byWilliam L. Marcy
Succeeded byHenry A. Foster
8th New York State Comptroller
In office
January 21, 1829 – January 7, 1833
GovernorMartin Van Buren
Enos T. Throop
William L. Marcy
Preceded byWilliam L. Marcy
Succeeded byAzariah C. Flagg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 20th district
In office
March 4, 1827 – February 16, 1829
Preceded byDaniel Hugunin Jr.
Succeeded byGeorge Fisher
Personal details
Born(1795-05-24)May 24, 1795
Amherst, Massachusetts
DiedAugust 27, 1847(1847-08-27) (aged 52)
Canton, New York
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Clarissa Moody (1833–1847)
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer

Silas Wright Jr. (May 24, 1795 – August 27, 1847) was an American attorney and Democratic politician. A member of the Albany Regency, he served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, New York State Comptroller, United States Senator, and Governor of New York.

Born in Amherst, Massachusetts and raised in Weybridge, Vermont, Wright graduated from Middlebury College in 1815, studied law, attained admission to the bar, and began a practice in Canton, New York. He soon began a career in politics and government, serving as St. Lawrence County's surrogate judge, a member of the New York State Senate, and a brigadier general in the state militia.

Wright became a member of the Albany Regency, the coterie of friends and supporters of Martin Van Buren who led New York's Democratic Party beginning in the 1820s. As his career progressed, he served in the United States House of Representatives (1827-1829), as State Comptroller (1829-1833), and U.S. Senator (1833-1844). In the Senate, Wright became chairman of the Finance Committee, a post he held from 1836 to 1841. In 1844, Van Buren lost the Democratic presidential nomination to James K. Polk; Polk supporters offered to nominate Wright for vice president as a way to attract Van Buren's support to the ticket, but Wright declined. Later that year he was elected governor, and he served one two-year term. Defeated for reelection in 1846, he retired to his home in Canton. He died in Canton in 1847, and was buried at Old Canton Cemetery.

Life and politics[edit]

Wright was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, and moved with his father to Weybridge, Vermont, in 1796. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1815 and moved to Sandy Hill, New York, the next year, where he studied law with Roger Skinner, being admitted to the bar in 1819. Wright commenced practice in Canton, New York. He served as surrogate of St. Lawrence County 1821-1824 and then as a member of the New York State Senate from 1824 to 1827. Wright was appointed brigadier general of the state militia in 1827.

In 1826, he was elected to the Twentieth Congress and served from March 4, 1827, to February 16, 1829, when he resigned. In Congress, he supported the protective tariff of 1828, although subsequently he became an advocate of a tariff for revenue only. He also voted for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the expediency of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.[1] He successfully contested the election of George Fisher to the Twenty-first Congress, but declined to qualify. Wright served as Comptroller of the State of New York from 1829 to 1833, in which post he became a prominent follower of Martin Van Buren and a member of the Albany Regency that ran the state for the Democratic Party in this period. Wright was elected to the United States Senate in 1833 as a Democrat to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of William L. Marcy. He was reelected in 1837 and served from January 4, 1833, to November 26, 1844.

In the Senate, he served as chairman of the Finance Committee from 1836 to 1841. He supported Henry Clay's compromise tariff of 1833, defended Andrew Jackson's removal of the deposits, opposed the recharter of the United States Bank, voted against John C. Calhoun's motion not to receive a petition for abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, voted in favor of excluding from the mails all "printed matter calculated to excite the prejudices of the southern states in regard to the question of slavery," opposed the distribution among the states of the surplus federal revenues, supported the Independent Treasury scheme of Martin Van Buren, voted in 1838 against the resolution offered by William Cabell Rives of Virginia declaring that the citizens of the states had no right to interfere with the question of slavery in the federal territories and that the people of those territories had the exclusive right to settle that question for themselves, opposed the bill requiring the states to choose members of Congress by single districts, voted for the tariff of 1842, and voted against the treaty for the annexation of Texas.[1]

In 1844, Wright supported Martin Van Buren for president. When James K. Polk won the presidential nomination, Wright was nominated for vice president. He declined, partly out of a refusal to support a ticket backing the annexation of Texas, and partly because he didn't want to be accused of intriguing against Van Buren to benefit himself. Instead, Wright ran successfully for Governor of New York.

He served as governor from 1845 to 1846. As governor, he opposed in 1845 the calling of a convention to revise the state constitution, preferring the adoption of amendments then proposed; he vetoed a bill appropriating money for works on the canals; he recommended legislation against the anti-renters, and on occasion of disturbances produced by them in Delaware County in 1845 proclaimed the county to be in a state of insurrection and called out a military force.[1] He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection, being defeated by the Whig candidate John Young.

Wright died soon after, aged 52, in Canton, on August 27, 1847, and is interred in Old Canton Cemetery. Wright's sudden death surprised many, as he was seen as a potential candidate in the 1848 presidential election.[2]


Wright depicted on the 1882 $50 Gold certificate.

The people of Weybridge, Vermont, erected a monument to their local son and it stands today in the center of town along Route 23. The monument is the basis for the name of the local Monument Farms Dairy.

W.C. McCrory, S.T. Creighton and Samual McManus, of Monticello, MN, were appointed to a committee in early 1855, and reported to St. Paul, MN, that the three had agreed to name now Wright County, MN, in honor of the late Hon. Silas Wright.

Mr. McCrory said, “There is a man in orange county, my native county in New York, a personal friend of mine; you would probably have no objection to naming the county after him, and thus giving him lasting fame.”


  1. ^ a b c Wikisource Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Wright, Silas" . The American Cyclopædia.
  2. ^ Merry, Robert W. (2009). A Country of Vast Designs, James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent. Simon & Schuster. p. 380.
  • Lives by Gilet, (Albany, 1874); Hammond, (Syracuse, 1848; republished as vol. iii. of Hammond's Political History of New York); Jenkins, (Auburn, 1847)

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Nicoll Fosdick
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 20th congressional district

March 4, 1827 – February 16, 1829
Succeeded by
Joseph Hawkins
Political offices
Preceded by
William L. Marcy
New York State Comptroller
Succeeded by
Azariah C. Flagg
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
William L. Marcy
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
January 4, 1833 – November 26, 1844
Served alongside: Charles E. Dudley and Nathaniel P. Tallmadge
Succeeded by
Henry A. Foster
Preceded by
Daniel Webster
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
Henry Clay
Political offices
Preceded by
William C. Bouck
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
John Young