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JOSHUA R. GIDDINGS.
GIDDINGS is one of the “old guard” of liberty. He is intimately connected with the anti-slavery reform in America—was one of its first and warmest supporters. He has been so long known as an uncompromising opponent of Negro slavery in the United States, that he is looked upon everywhere as a kind of moral hero, both among his friends and enemies, for the latter know full well, that it requires courage to support unwaveringly an unpopular cause. Not for an instant during the last fifteen years, has Mr. Giddings faltered—not for a moment has he harbored a thought of relinquishing his opposition to slavery.
Mr. Giddings is not a disciple of Lord Chesterfield: he knows not how to bandy compliments—is not a fashionable gentleman, according to the definition of the polite world. He is not by any means ungentlemanly or uncourteous, but he is plain, direct, and always forcible. His manner comports well with his appearance. He is of middle height, is thick-set, has a corrugated forehead, piercing eyes, and a hearty voice. Sometimes there is a half-scowl upon his face
as if he were thinking of the many hard battles he has fought with the enemies of human freedom. Neither does Mr. Giddings make pretensions to profound scholarship. He does not believe in shams, and wishes to be taken for what he is, rather than for what he is not. He was not made in schools or colleges, but got his education by the fireside. He knows, however, the history of American slavery as thoroughly as any man in the country. He has by heart every feature of the system, every movement of its adherents, since the Union was formed. Stern in his adherence to his principles, enduring as the hardest granite, he is eminently fitted for his position. In the past years no man could hold Mr. Giddings' views upon slavery on the floor of Congress, without being made of stern stuff. No common man could, day after day, and year after year, endure the studied insults of southern orators and blackguards. Mere power of rhetoric could not make front against such a mighty opposing force. Nothing but iron integrity could do it. Mr. Giddings has been accused by some of lacking geniality, but we think not by those who know him well, and can appreciate the life he has led, and the constant series of attacks which he has encountered in congress for the last fifteen years
A man cannot stop to measure his words with an enemy charging upon him; he must fight as best he can, and how. Mr. Giddings is simply a
hearty, solid, stern believer in human rights, and does not know how to grow mellow over his grog, after the genuine congressional fashion. He is anti-slavery at all times out of congress as well as in it; it is his “one idea,” to make war upon the institution, and for that reason he is accused by some of lacking geniality. He is a man of warm, generous feelings and humor, but he is distinguished chiefly by his clear common sense, and his dogged perseverance. Once right, all the powers of hell cannot swerve him from his path, and his sturdy intellect and philanthropic heart, are safe guides for him to follow. He is no orator. He does not understand the power of a graceful address, or if he does, cannot speak gracefully. His manners as an orator are far from pleasing, and yet he usually commands the attention of the house. He lacks an easy flow of language; the words sometimes are too rapidly uttered, and again too slowly. But there is so much force, so much power in his thoughts, that he is sure of being listened to as eagerly as if he were an orator.
Mr. Giddings was born the 6th of October, 1795, at Athens, New York. His ancestors emigrated from England, in 1650, to this country. His great grandfather left Connecticut, in 1725, for the state of New York, and in 1806, his father emigrated to Ashtabula county, Ohio, taking his son with him. They have remained there ever since. Young Giddings had not
the advantage of a collegiate education, nor had he an academical education, for he only attended school in a common, district school-house. His father had been cheated out of a grant of lands, and was quite poor, and father and son worked industriously upon the farm. His father fought in the battles of the revolution, and his stories of the stirring times of "76 made a deep impression upon the mind of young Giddings—an impression which will never be effaced so long as he lives. It was by the humble fireside of his father that he learned to love and respect human rights. He was taught that human liberty is worth dying for—that all men possess the right to own themselves and manage their own affairs. Rev. olutionary blood runs in his veins, and the tales of the courage of the old revolutionary heroes in the dark days of the rebel colony, were calculated to fill him with a desire to imitate them in their virtues. In 1812 he took part in the war with Great Britain, and was engaged in one or two battles with the enemy. Shortly after he returned, he was invited to teach a district school near Ashtabula, and, though feeling diffident about his qualifications, he accepted the invitation, and succeeded admirably. • He became desirous for more knowledge, for a more enlightened intellect, and for a time he put himself under the tuition of a neighboring clergyman. He then commenced studying law, and was admitted to
the bar in 1817. He shortly after married, and settled down in his profession. In 1826 he was elected to the legislature of Ohio, and in 1836 he was first elected to congress, from Ashtabula district, and he has been continued there by his constituents ever since.
When he entered congress, the nation was engaged in prosecuting the Florida war, the principal object of which was to recover fugitive slaves. Seeing this, Mr. Giddings at once commenced a series of speeches, to show the manner in which the north was dragged. into the support of a system odious to her alike by nature and education. Two years after he entered congress, the infamous gag-law was passed, whereby all discussion of slavery on the floor of the house was prohibited. Mr. Giddings, with a few other manly northern men present, were determined to test the power of the gag, and, as an experiment, discussed questions which indirectly involved the institution of slavery. The Florida war was before the house, and Mr. Giddings led off in an able speech upon it. He took the ground that slavery caused the warthat it was a shameful and slave-catching war. The slave-holding members called him to order for breaking the rules of the house, but the speaker decided that it was in order to discuss the causes of the war. This decision paved the way for the repeal of the odious restriction upon the right of speech.