Wright, Silas (Jr) (b Amherst, Mass, 24 May 1795; d Canton, St. Lawrence Co, 27 Aug 1847). Governor and US senator.
Born into a New England farm family, he attended Middlebury College in Vermont, studied law, and opened a practice in Canton. Active in local politics Wright was elected to the New York State Senate in 1823 and worked closely with Martin Van Buren as the Albany Regency’s second in command.
Wright served one term in the US House of Representatives (1827–29) and was reelected but opted against serving when he was appointed state comptroller (1829–33). He was elected to the US Senate (1832–44) and married Clarissa Moody in 1833. He backed Pres Andrew Jackson’s war against the Second Bank of the United States and led the Democrats in support of Pres Van Buren’s program, including the Independent Treasury plan, which would remove government funds from commercial banks to a federal institution, during the depression of 1837. When the Democrats denied Van Buren, who had lost his 1840 reelection bid, the renomination in 1844, winning candidate James K. Polk offered Wright the vice presidential spot.
Because of the convention’s abandonment of his close friend and leader, Wright refused, but he agreed to run for governor to bolster Polk’s chances in New York State. Both were successful. As governor Wright was hurt by Democratic Party infighting, caused initially by differences over banking and state funding for canal construction, by Pres Polk’s mistreatment of Van Buren’s faction, and by Polk’s commitment to expand slavery. The Van Burenites, now called Barnburners, supported Wright’s reelection in 1846, but he lost, his friends believed, because of opposition by his Democratic foes; his harsh stance against the violent antirent agitation in the Hudson Valley also cost him many votes there. Wright retired to his Canton farm in 1847 and was a possible Democratic presidential nominee for the 1848 election, when he suffered a sudden, fatal stroke. Wright’s home in Canton is now a museum and library.
Garraty, John Arthur. Silas Wright (New York: Columbia Univ Press, 1949)
Joel H. Silbey
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 1729].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.