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William Freeman Vilas


In office
March 6, 1885 – January 6, 1888
Preceded by Frank Hatton
Succeeded by Donald M. Dickinson

In office
January 16, 1888 – March 6, 1889
Preceded by Lucius Q.C. Lamar
Succeeded by John Willock Noble

Born July 9, 1840(1840-07-09)
Chelsea, Vermont, U.S.
Died August 28, 1908 (aged 68)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Anna M. Vilas
Alma mater University of Wisconsin–Madison
University at Albany
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Union
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Rank lieutenant colonel
Unit 23rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars American Civil War

William Freeman Vilas (July 9, 1840 – August 28, 1908) was a member of the Democratic Party who served in the United States Senate for the state of Wisconsin from 1891 to 1897.[1] He was a prominent Bourbon Democrat.

Vilas was born in Chelsea, Vermont, and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, with his family in 1851. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1858, and from the University at Albany Law School in 1860. He enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War and was a captain in the 23rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and later served as the lieutenant colonel of that regiment.

Following the war, Vilas was a Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a regent of the University from 1880 to 1885 and 1898 to 1905. Vilas served as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1885, until he was appointed the Postmaster General between 1885 and 1888, and as Secretary of the Interior from 1888 to 1889, both under President Grover Cleveland.

After leaving the cabinet, he led Wisconsin German Americans in the protest against the Bennett Law of 1889 which required schools to only use the English language. From 1891 until 1897 he was a member of the United States Senate, in which, during President Cleveland's second term, he was recognized as the chief defender of the Administration, and he was especially active in securing the repeal of the silver purchase clause of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. He was unsuccessful in a 1896 reelection bid, having been defeated by Senator John Coit Spooner.

Vilas was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1896, but withdrew after the adoption of the free-silver plank. He then became one of the chief organizers of the National Democratic Party, attended the convention at Indianapolis, and was chairman of its committee on resolutions. He was also the main drafter of the National Democratic Party's platform. Vilas, a favorite of the delegates, refused to run as the party's sacrificial lamb.

He is interred at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison, Wisconsin.

Vilas County, Wisconsin is named for William F. Vilas.[2]

See also

References

Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Hatton
Postmaster General of the United States
1885 – 1888
Succeeded by
Donald M. Dickinson
Preceded by
Lucius Q.C. Lamar
United States Secretary of the Interior
1888 – 1889
Succeeded by
John W. Noble
United States Senate
Preceded by
John C. Spooner
Senator from Wisconsin (Class 3)
1891 – 1897
with Philetus Sawyer (1891–1893)
John L. Mitchell (1893–1897)
Succeeded by
John C. Spooner
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WILLIAM FREEMAN VILAS (1840-1908), American political leader and lawyer, was born in Chelsea, Vermont, on the 9th of July 1840. His father, Levi B. Vilas, a lawyer and Democratic politician, emigrated in 1851 to Madison, Wisconsin. William graduated at the university of Wisconsin in 1858, and at the Albany (New York) Law School in 1860, and began to practise law in Madison with his father. In 1862 he recruited and became captain of Company A of the Twenty-Third Wisconsin Volunteers, of which he was made lieutenant-colonel in 1863, and which he commanded in the siege of Vicksburg. In August 1863 he resigned his commission and resumed his law practice. He was professor of law in the university of Wisconsin in 1868-85, and again in 1889-92, and in 1875-78 was a member of the commission which revised the statutes of Wisconsin. ` From 1876„ to 1886 he was a member of the National Democratic Committee, and virtually the leader of his party in his state; he was a delegate to the National Democratic Conventions of 1876, 1880 and 1884, and was permanent chairman of the last. In 1885 he was a member of the state Assembly. He was postmaster-general in President Grover Cleveland's cabinet from March 1885 until January 1888, and was then secretary of the interior until March 1889. From 1891 until 1897 he was a member of the United States Senate, in which, during President Cleveland's second term, he was recognized as the chief defender of the Administration, and he was especially active in securing the repeal of the silverpurchase clause of the Sherman Act. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1896, but withdrew after the adoption of the free-silver plank. He then became one of the chief organizers of the National (or Gold) Democratic party, attended the convention at Indianapolis, and was chairman of its committee on resolutions. In 1881-85 and in1898-1905he was a regent of the university of Wisconsin; and he was a member (1897-1903) of the commission which had charge of the erection of the State Historical Library at Madison, and in 1906-8 of the commission for the construction of the new state capitol. He died at Madison on the 2 7th of August 1908.

With E. E. Bryant he edited vols. i. to xx., except vol. v., of the Reports of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


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