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.
- November 14, 1824
- Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh
- Reverend John Clinton Ashley and Mary Ann (Kirkpatrick) Ashley
- No formal education
- Railroad executive
- 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 the 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 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.