Joseph A. Wright : biography
Joseph Albert Wright (April 17, 1810May 11, 1867) was the tenth Governor of the U.S. state of Indiana from December 5, 1849 to January 12, 1857, most noted for his opposition to banking. His positions created a rift between him and the Indiana General Assembly who overrode all of his anti-banking vetoes. He responded by launching legal challenges to the acts, but was ruled against by the Indiana Supreme Court. The state's second constitutional convention was held during 1850–1851 in which the current Constitution of Indiana was drafted. He was a supporter of the new constitution and gave speeches around the state urging its adoption. He was opposed throughout his term by Senator Jesse D. Bright, the leader of the state Democratic Party.
After his term as governor, he was appointed to serve as United States Ambassador to Prussia where he served until the outbreak of the American Civil War. Although he was a Democrat, he was openly pro-Union during the war, and was elected to serve as a United States Senator, filling the term of Jesse D. Bright, who was thrown out of the Senate for disloyalty. Following the war he was reappointed to his ambassadorial post where he remained until his death in Berlin, Germany.
American Civil War
In an attempt to maintain party unity, Wright declined an offer to run against Bright for his seat in the Senate, and instead supported Bright in his reelection. In exchange, Bright offered to secure Wright a cabinet post with James Buchanan. The offer was false, and Bright instead sought to have Wright removed to a post as far from Indiana as possible. Wright accepted appointment by President Buchanan to serve as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Prussia from 1857 until 1861. While he was away, Bright had Wright and many others officially thrown out of the party. Wright was in Germany when the American Civil War began, and he quickly returned home, arriving in Indianapolis on September 7, 1861, and openly supported the Union cause.Gugin, p. 120
In 1861, a letter was intercepted addressed to "His Excellency, the President of the Confederate States of America", and was from Senator Bright, offering advice on procuring weapons. The Senate moved switly to expel Bright, and exiled him from the country on charges of disloyalty. Governor Oliver P. Morton seized Bright's Indiana estate for use a military post, and Bright was left ruined and impoverished. Wright was appointed to serve as Senator in his place from February 24, 1862 until his replacement was elected and took the seat on January 14, 1863.Woollen, p. 102
He remarried again in 1863 to Caroline Rockwell who returned with him to Germany after Abraham Lincoln reappointed Wright to serve as the Ambassador to Prussia. Wright returned to Berlin in 1863 and remained there until his death on May 11, 1867. His body was returned to the United States and he was buried in New York City. The Wright Quadrangle student housing dorm at Indiana University was named after Joseph A. Wright.Gugin, p. 121
The Whigs fielded John Matson to run again Wright in the election. The campaign focused almost exclusively on the issue of slavery and on which party was best positioned to prevent the extension of slavery into Indiana and the western territories, and which party was to blame for the state's bankruptcy which had finally been resolved in 1847. Wright had the most public record of opposing slavery as a congressman, and that seemed to help him in his decisive win at the polls. He was elected to governor, winning by 9,778 votes and took office on December 5, 1849. During the same election, the electorate also approved a constitutional convention to replace the Constitution of Indiana.Gugin, p. 116
His wife died on May, 21 1852 from malaria. Wright remarried to Harriet Burbridge on August 15, 1854, and the couple had one daughter Harriet died in October 1855.
During his administration Indiana adopted its current constitution, and Wright was a driving force in its adoption in 1851 election. Wright was a delegate at the convention where he championed the cause of tax reform, primarily by defining what could and could not be taxed by the state property tax and the creation of a bureau to manage the state's penal and benevolence institutions. The constitution also authorized a major reorganization of the state school system, which was enacted in 1852 with Wright overseeing many parts of the reform. He personally oversaw the creation of school boards across the state and placed tax collectors to begin collecting the revenues for the boards. He also oversaw the creation of the State Board of Education and the State Agricultural Board. Wright was an avid supporter of agriculture and created the State Board of Agriculture to help encourage and assist farm growth in Indiana. Among its early achievements, the first Indiana State Fair was organized in 1851.Gugin, p. 117
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