James M. Ashley, Portrait, Cropped

James M. Ashley [Wikimedia]

James M. Ashley Facts

November 14, 1824 - September 16, 1896

Key facts about James M. Ashley, a five-term Ohio Congressman and Radical Republican leader who introduced the House proposal that would become the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Birth Date:

  • November 14, 1824

Birth Location:

  • Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh


  • Reverend John Clinton Ashley and Mary Ann (Kirkpatrick) Ashley


  • No formal education


  • Lawyer
  • Politician
  • Railroad executive

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Congressman
  • Governor of Montana Territory


  • Emma J. Smith (1851)

Place of Death:

  • Alma, Michigan

Date of Death:

  • September 16, 1896

Place of Burial:

  • Woodlawn Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio


  • When James M. Ashley was two years old, his family moved to Portsmouth, Ohio where his father operated small bookbinding and soap and candle-making businesses, in addition to serving as an ordained minister.
  • James M. Ashley left home as a teenager to work as a riverboat cabin boy.
  • In 1848, James M. Ashley founded the Portsmouth Democrat, but the publication quickly failed.
  • James M. Ashley was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1849, but he rarely if ever practiced law.
  • While living in Portsmouth, Ohio. James M. Ashley was actively involved in the Underground Railroad.
  • In 1851, James M. Ashley married Emma J. Smith of Kentucky and moved to Toledo where he opened a drug store.
  • In 1856, James M. Ashley was selected as a delegate to the national convention of the newly emerging Republican Party.
  • In 1858 and 1860, voters of Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District elected James M. Ashley to represent them in Congress.
  • In 1862, 1864, and 1866, voters of Ohio’s Tenth Congressional District elected James M. Ashley to represent them in Congress.
  • James M. Ashley represented Ohio in the thirty-sixth through fortieth Congresses from 1859 through 1869.
  • During his tenure in Congress, James M. Ashley aligned himself politically with the radical element of the Republican Party, especially on the issue of abolition.
  • In 1863, James M. Ashley introduced the first proposal during the Civil War for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery in the United States.
  • James M. Ashley’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery in the United States served as the basis for the Thirteenth Amendment,
  • In January 1867, James M. Ashley introduced a motion in the U.S. House of Representatives floor to impeach the President Andrew Johnson. The motion eventually failed.
  • Three months later, on February 24, 1868, James M. Ashley voted with the House majority in favor of impeaching President Andrew Johnson.
  • In 1868, voters from Ohio’s Tenth Congressional District voters elected Democrat Truman H. Hoag to replace James M. Ashley in Congress.
  • In 1869, President Ulysses Grant appointed James M. Ashley as Governor of Montana Territory. Ashley assumed his new office on April 9, 1869.
  • President Grant summarily sacked James M. Ashley as Governor of Montana Territory without comment in December 1869.
  • In 1872, James M. Ashley served as a delegate to the Liberal Republican Party’s national convention in Cincinnati.
  • When the Liberal Republican Party dissolved after President Grant’s reelection, James M. Ashley switched his political allegiance to the Democratic Party.
  • In 1875, James M. Ashley moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan and immersed himself in the railroad business.
  • James M. Ashley served as president of the reconfigured Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Michigan Railroad until the company went into receivership during the Panic of 1893.
  • During the 1890s James M. Ashley returned to the Republican Party and made two unsuccessful attempts to return to Congress.
  • A victim of acute diabetes, James M. Ashley suffered a fatal heart attack on September 16, 1896 in Alma, Michigan.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title James M. Ashley Facts
  • Coverage November 14, 1824 - September 16, 1896
  • Author
  • Keywords James M. Ashley
  • Website Name American History Central
  • URL
  • Access Date April 7, 2020
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 10, 2019

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