Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894

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Robert Charles Winthrop (May 12, 1809 – November 16, 1894) was an American lawyer and philanthropist and one time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was a descendant of John Winthrop.

Robert Charles Winthrop was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Thomas Lindall Winthrop (1760–1841), the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple (1769–1825), who were married on July 25, 1786. He was the youngest of 13 children born to his parents. Winthrop attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard University in 1828, which he attended with Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, George Stillman Hillard, Judge John Gilchrist, Edward Sprague Rand, and others of note.

After studying law with Daniel Webster he was admitted to the bar in 1831 and practiced in Boston. At 24, he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1835 to 1840, and served as Speaker of the House of that body from 1838 to 1840. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1838.

Winthrop was elected US Representative from Massachusetts as a Whig to the 26th United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Abbott Lawrence; he was reelected to the 27th Congress and served from November 9, 1840, to May 25, 1842, when he resigned due to the death of his wife.

He was subsequently elected to the 27th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of his successor, Nathan Appleton; he was reelected to the 28th and to the three succeeding Congresses and served from November 29, 1842 until July 30, 1850. He served as the Speaker of the House during the 30th Congress (1847–1849), but could not secure a second term, losing the 1849 speakership election to Howell Cobb in a protracted 63-ballot contest. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1849.

After Daniel Webster resigned from the United States Senate to become Secretary of State in 1850, Winthrop resigned from the House and, at 41, was appointed by fellow Whig Governor George Briggs to fill the remainder of Webster's Senate term. Winthrop's views proved no more palatable to abolitionists than did Webster's, and he failed to win reelection by the state legislature to either of Massachusetts' Senate seats in 1851. He resigned without completing his term immediately following his election loss. Later that year, Winthrop actually won a popular plurality in the race for Massachusetts Governor but as the state Constitution required a majority, the election was thrown into the legislature. The same coalition of Democrats and Free Soilers defeated him again. His final venture into elected political office was as a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1852. Afterwards, Winthrop became an independent, unsuccessfully supporting Millard Fillmore, John Bell, and George McClellan.

With his political career over at the young age of 43, Winthrop spent the remainder of his life in literary, historical, and philanthropic pursuits. He was a major early patron of the Boston Public Library and president of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1855 to 1885, during which time he wrote a biography of his ancestor John Winthrop. He served as the president of the Massachusetts Bible Society for several years where he advocated that Christian morality was the necessary condition of a free society. His most notable Christian philosophy for governing men, was as follows:

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.

His most notable contributions came as permanent Chairman and President of the Peabody Education Fund Trustees, which he served from 1867 to his death. As well as steering the contributions of the Peabody Trust, Winthrop gave his own money to various Southern schools, the most long lasting of which was the $1,500 of seed money provided to a teacher's college that renamed itself Winthrop University in gratitude. He became a noted orator, delivering the eulogy for George Peabody in 1870, and speaking at the ceremony that opened the Washington Monument in 1848. Winthrop was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in October 1894.

In 1892, in a celebration of his birth, it was noted that he had the distinction of having known every President of the United States except Washington and Jefferson.

Winthrop died in Boston in 1894, and is interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his will, he left bequests to the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Provident Association, the Boston Children's Hospital, the Library of the Boston Latin School, and the library of the Sunday school of Trinity Church, Boston.

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creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Letter : to Daniel Webster, 1843 Feb. 3. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Horatio King Papers, 1832-1906, (bulk 1857-1891) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
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creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Autograph letter signed : Boston, to H.B. Dawson, 1859 Mar. 17. Pierpont Morgan Library.
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referencedIn Winthrop family papers, 1537-1904. Library of Congress
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referencedIn Vol. DCCII (ff. 209). 1882-1884.includes:f. 12 Laura Russell, wife of Lord Arthur Russell: Letter to Mrs. W. E. Gladstone: 1882.f. 14 Robert Charles Winthrop, American statesman: Letters to W. E. Gladstone: 1870-1882.f. 26 Frederick John Church..., 1882-1884 British Library
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creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Monograph on Washington : manuscript, 1889. Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Lyman Family. Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Letters sent to Cornelius Conway Felton from various correspondents, 1849-1860. Houghton Library
referencedIn Blanchard family. Papers, 1782-1836. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. ALS : [Boston, Mass.], to My Dear Sir, [185-?]. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Letter : "Uplands," Brookline, Mass., to William C. Pennington, 1889 August 25. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Gilman, Arthur, 1837-1909. Papers, 1851-1923. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Papers, 1768-1866. Houghton Library
referencedIn Toner, Joseph M. (Joseph Meredith), 1825-1896. Papers of Joseph M. Toner, 1741-1896. Library of Congress
creatorOf Stuart, Alexander H. H. (Alexander Hugh Holmes), 1807-1891. Papers of Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart [manuscript] 1791-1928. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Dickinson family papers, 1757-1934. Houghton Library
referencedIn Lowell, Francis Cabot, 1803-1874. Papers, 1788-1966, bulk: 1817-1874. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Whig party (N.H.). Correspondence, 1820-1838. Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Lunt, William P. (William Parsons), 1805-1857. Family papers, 1756-1880, bulk: 1828-1857. Library of Congress
creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Letters to William H. Whitmore, 1862-1874. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Massachusetts Civil War collection, 1724-1933 (inclusive);, 1861-1912 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Smith, Charles Card, 1827-1918. Papers, 1808-1915. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Harvard Alumni Association. Records of the Marshal, 1836-1913 (inclusive). Harvard University, Archives
creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Autograph letter signed Robt. C. Winthrop to: "Dear Sir" [Charles A. Tufts] October 4, 1856. Wellesley College
creatorOf Saltonstall family. Saltonstall family papers, 1524-1969. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Corcoran, W. W. (William Wilson), 1798-1888. W.W. Corcoran papers, 1791-1896 (bulk 1849-1888). Library of Congress
referencedIn John Vaughan papers, 1768 - Circa 1936, 1768 - Circa 1936 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn John J. Crittenden Papers, 1782-1913, (bulk 1841-1888) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Ames, Sarah Fisher, 1817-1901. Papers, [ca. 1860-1879]. Brown University, John Hay Library
creatorOf Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894. Autograph letter signed : Boston, to John Bartlett, 1852 Nov. 9. Pierpont Morgan Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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memberOf Harvard College (1780- ).  Class of 1828. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Harvard University corporateBody
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correspondedWith Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1841-1935 person
associatedWith Hope, Annie Beverley Whiting, 1825-1920 person
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correspondedWith Thayer, William Roscoe, 1859-1923 person
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memberOf United States. Congress. House of Representatives corporateBody
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associatedWith Vilas, William F. (William Freeman), 1840-1908 person
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associatedWith Whitmore, William Henry, 1836-1900. person
associatedWith Whittier, John Greenleaf, 1807-1892. person
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spouseOf Winthrop, Adele Granger Thayer, d. 1892. person
memberOf Winthrop family. family
descendantOf Winthrop, John, 1588-1649. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Boston MA US
Boston MA US
Subject
Yorktown (Va.)--History--Siege, 1781--Centennial celebrations, etc
Dueling--Virginia
Letters
Statesmen--Correspondence
Real property--New York (State)--Long Island
Fashion
Genealogy
Indians of North America--New York (State)--Long Island
Clothing and dress
American poetry--19th century
Voyages and travels
Land titles--New York (State)--Long Island
Williams, Mr
Occupation
Speakers of the House, U.S. Congress
Philanthropists
Representatives U.S. Congress--Massachusetts
Senators, U.S. Congress--Massachusetts
Historians
Jurists
Function

Person

Birth 1809-05-12

Death 1894-11-16

Male

Americans

English

Information

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