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William Gannaway Brownlow

BROWNLOW, William Gannaway, journalist, born in Wythe County, Virginia, 29 August, 1805; died in Knoxville, Tennessee, 29 April, 1877. He was left an orphan at the age of eleven, but, having earned enough by hard work as a carpenter to give himself a fair English education, he entered the Methodist ministry in 1826, and labored for ten years as an itinerant preacher. He began to take part in politics in 1828 by advocating, in Tennessee, the reelection of John Quincy Adams to the presidency ; and while traveling the South Carolina circuit, in which John C. Calhoun lived, made him unpopular by publicly opposing nullification. He afterward published a pamphlet in vindication of his course. He became editor of the Knoxville " Whig" in 1838, and from his trenchant mode of expression became known as "the fighting parson." He was a candidate for congress against Andrew Johnson in 1843, and in 1850 was appointed by President Fillmore one of several commissioners to carry out the provisions made by congress for the improvement of navigation on the Missouri. AI-though an advocate of slavery, he boldly opposed the secession movement, taking the ground that southern institutions were safer in the union than out of it. His course subjected him to much persecution. For a time his house was the only one in Knoxville where the union flag was displayed; but all efforts to make him haul it down were unsuccessful. His paper was finally suppressed by the confederate authorities, and in the last issue, that of 24 October, 1861, he published a farewell address to his readers, in which he said that he preferred imprisonment to submission. Refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the confederate government, he was at last persuaded by his friends to leave Knoxville for another district. During his absence he was accused of burning railway bridges in east Tennessee, and a company of troops was sent out with orders to shoot him on sight; but he escaped by secreting himself among the loyalists on the North Carolina border. He was finally induced, by the promise of a free pass to Kentucky, to return to Knoxville, but was arrested there, 6 December, 1861, on charge of treason, and thrown into jail, where he was confined without fire, and suffered much during his imprisonment. He was released at the close of the month, but was detained at his own house under guard. Hearing that Judah P. Benjamin had called him a "dangerous man," and had wished him out of the confederacy, Brownlow wrote him a characteristic letter, in which occur the words, "Just give me my passport, and I will do more for your confederacy than the devil has ever done--I will leave the country." Benjamin advised his release, to relieve the government from the odium of having entrapped him. Brownlow was taken at his word, and sent inside the union lines at Nashville, on 3 March, 1862. After this he made a tour through the northern states, speaking to immense audiences in the principal cities, and at Philadelphia was joined by his family, who had also been expelled from Knoxville. He returned to Tennessee in 1864, and, on the reconstruction of the state in 1865, was elected governor, serving two terms. In his message of October, 1865, he advocated the removal of the Negro population to a separate territory, and declared it bad policy to give them the ballot. In that of November, 1866, he reiterated these sentiments, but recognized the fact that the blacks had shown greater aptitude for learning than had been expected, and, although confessing to "caste prejudice," said he desired to act in harmony with the great body of loyal people throughout, the union. In 1867 Governor Brownlow came into conflict with Mayor Brown, of Nashville, over the manner of appointing judges of election under the new franchise law. The United States troops were ordered to sustain the governor, and the City authorities finally submitted. During the ku-klux troubles Governor Brownlow found it necessary to proclaim martial law in nine counties of the state. In 1869 he was elected to the United States senate, and resigned the office of governor. In 1875 he was succeeded in the senate by ex-President Johnson. After the close of his term he returned to Knoxville, bought a controlling interest in the " Whig," which he had sold in 1869, and edited it until his death. He published " The Iron Wheel Examined, and its False Spokes Extracted," a reply to attacks on the Methodist church (Nashville, 1856); "Ought American Slavery to be Perpetuated ?" a debate with Rev. A. Prynne, of New York, in which Mr. Brownlow took the affirmative (Philadelphia, 1858); and" Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession, with a Narrative of Personal Adventures among the Rebels " (1862).

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