1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Winthrop, Robert Charles

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WINTHROP, ROBERT CHARLES (1800-1894), American orator and statesman, a descendant of Governor John Winthrop (1588-1649), was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 12th of May 1809. He graduated at Harvard in 1828, studied law with Daniel Webster and in 1831 was admitted to the bar. He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1834-1840 — for the last three years as speaker, — and in 1840 was elected to the national House of Representatives as a Whig, serving from December 1840 to 1850 (with a short intermission, April-December 1842). He soon became prominent and was speaker of the Thirtieth Congress (1847-1849), though his conservatism on slavery and kindred questions displeased extremists, North and South, who prevented his re-election as speaker of the Thirty-first Congress. On the resignation of Daniel Webster to become secretary of state, Winthrop was appointed to the Senate (July 1850), but was defeated in the Massachusetts legislature for the short term (Jan. 30, 1851) and for the long term (April 24, 1851) by a coalition of Democrats and Free Soilers and served only until February 1851. In the same year he received a plurality of the votes cast for governor, but as the constitution required a majority vote, the election was thrown into the legislature, where he was defeated by the same coalition. Thereafter, he was never a candidate for political office. With the breaking up of the Whig party he became an independent and supported Millard Fillmore in 1856, John Bell in 1860, and General G. B. McClellan in 1864. He was president of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1855 to 1885, and for the last twenty-seven years of his life was president of the Peabody Trust for the advancement of education in the Southern States. Among his noteworthy orations of a patriotic character were those delivered at Boston in 1876, at Yorktown in 1881, and in Washington on the completion of the Washington Monument in 1885. He died in Boston on the 16th of November 1894.

Among his publications were Addresses and Speeches (Boston, 1852-1886); Life and Letters of John Winthrop (2 vols., Boston, 1864-1867); and Washington, Bowdoin and Franklin (Boston, 1876). See R. C. Winthrop, Jr., Memoir of R. C. Winthrop (Boston, 1897).