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James Mitchell Ashley
James Mitchell Ashley (November 14, 1824 September 16, 1896) was a U.S. congressman, territorial governor and railroad president.

Early life

Ashley was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvaniamarker, to John and Mary A. (Kilpatrick) Ashley. He married Emma Smith in 1851 and together they had four children. He is the great-grandfather of Thomas W. L. Ashley and a number of other descendants, including James Ashley IV, a portraitist living in Chicago. James IV recently completed a portrait of his great-grandfather, which will soon be permanently installed at the University of Toledomarker Law School. The school held a symposium in the first James Ashley's honor, at which an original hiphop composition about his life was presented.

Ashley was mostly self-taught in elementary subjects. His early employment included clerking on Ohio and Mississippi River boats. In 1848, he settled in Portsmouth, Ohiomarker, where he became editor of the Portsmouth Democrat. In 1849, he was admitted to the Ohio Bar but did not practice. About this time he moved to Toledo, Ohiomarker, and got involved in the wholesale drug business.

Political career

James Ashley was an active abolitionist who traveled with John Brown's widow on the date of Brown's execution and reported the event in the still-extant local newspaper, the Toledo Blade. In 1858, he was elected to U.S. House of Representatives of the 36th Congress as a Republican. While in Congress (the 37th through 40th), he served as the chairman to the Committee on Territories. He took an active role in supporting the recruitment of troops for the Union Army during the American Civil War.

During his term, he wrote a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbiamarker, introduced the first bill for a constitutional amendent abolishing slavery, and initiated impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson (1867). He was defeated for re-election in 1868. During the Civil War, he authored the Arizona Organic Act.

Following his defeat, Ashley was appointed the Territorial Governor of Montana and served until 1870. He then returned to Toledo.

Ashley was the builder and president of the Ann Arbor Railroad.


Further reading

  • Horowitz, Robert F. Great Impeacher: A Political Biography of James M. Ashley. New York: Brooklyn College Press, 1979.

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