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Chase, Salmon Portland (13 January 1808–07 May 1873), statesman, antislavery leader, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of Ithamar Chase, a glassmaker and tavernkeeper, and Janette Ralston. When Chase was nine years old, his father died. To ease the financial burden on his mother, Chase, the eighth of eleven children, moved to Ohio and lived with his uncle ...

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Giddings, Joshua Reed (06 October 1795–27 May 1864), antislavery congressman, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joshua Giddings and Elizabeth Pease, farmers. At the age of ten he moved with his parents to Ashtabula County in Ohio’s Western Reserve, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1819 he married Laura Waters, with whom he had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Lacking virtually all formal education, Giddings nonetheless studied law with Elisha Whittlesey, later a U.S. representative, and established a successful practice. After losing his considerable investments in western lands in the panic of 1837 and becoming estranged from his former law partner, future U.S. Senator ...

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Phillips, Wendell (29 November 1811–02 February 1884), orator, abolitionist, and women's rights and labor advocate, orator, abolitionist, and women’s rights and labor advocate, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Phillips, a well-to-do politician and philanthropist, and Sarah Walley. The youngest of eleven children, Wendell received strict and loving attention from both of his parents. From the first he was trained to see himself as a great leader, committed to addressing the great moral and political questions of his age. This drive for leadership was compounded by his early discovery that he possessed extraordinary gifts as an orator. Athletic, handsome, and intelligent, he impressed teachers and classmates alike with his unusual capacity to express himself and to influence others with eloquent speaking. After attending the Boston Latin School, he graduated from Harvard in 1831 and obtained a Harvard law degree in 1833. For the next three years Phillips resided in and around Boston as he attempted, halfheartedly, to establish a legal practice, a career for which he felt no great enthusiasm. Instead he yearned to pursue a vocation worthy of his august legacy. That vocation, finally, was the cause of abolitionism, which he discovered through the process of courtship and marriage....

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Sumner, Charles (06 January 1811–11 March 1874), politician and reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Pinckney Sumner, a lawyer and sheriff, and Relief Jacob. Raised in a middle-class family committed to humanitarian reform, at age fifteen Sumner entered Harvard, where he excelled in literature and history. Following graduation in 1830, he enrolled in the Harvard Law School, revealing his love of learning and study more than a desire to become a practicing attorney. In fact, he regarded a lawyer “as one of the veriest wretches in the world.”...