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Robert Charles Winthrop

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Title: Robert Charles Winthrop  
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Subject: Nathan Appleton, 31st United States Congress, George Ashmun, 30th United States Congress, Joseph Bradley Varnum
Collection: 1809 Births, 1894 Deaths, American People of English Descent, Burials at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Burials in Massachusetts, Dudley–winthrop Family, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University Alumni, Lawyers from Boston, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Lawyers, Massachusetts Whigs, Members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Members of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts, People from Boston, Massachusetts, Philanthropists from Massachusetts, Politicians from Boston, Massachusetts, Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, United States Presidential Electors, United States Senators from Massachusetts, Whig Party United States Senators
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Robert Charles Winthrop

Robert Charles Winthrop
18th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 6, 1847 – March 4, 1849
President James K. Polk
Preceded by John W. Davis
Succeeded by Howell Cobb
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st district
In office
November 9, 1840 – May 25, 1842
November 29, 1842 – July 30, 1850
Preceded by Abbott Lawrence
Nathan Appleton
Succeeded by Nathan Appleton
Samuel A. Eliot
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
July 30, 1850 – February 1, 1851
Appointed by George N. Briggs
Preceded by Daniel Webster
Succeeded by Robert Rantoul, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1809-05-12)May 12, 1809
Boston, Massachusetts
Died November 16, 1894(1894-11-16) (aged 85)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Cabot Blanchard
Laura Derby Welles
Adele Granger Thayer Winthrop
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession Lawyer, Politician, Philanthropist

Robert Charles Winthrop (May 12, 1809 – November 16, 1894) was an American lawyer and philanthropist and one time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He is a descendant of John Winthrop.

Life and career

Robert Charles Winthrop was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Thomas Lindall Winthrop (March 6, 1760 — February 22, 1841) and wife (m. July 25, 1786) Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple (October 23, 1769 — July 23, 1825). He attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard University in 1828.

On March 12, 1832, he married Elizabeth Cabot Blanchard (May 27, 1809 — June 14, 1842), daughter of Francis Blanchard (baptised February 1, 1784 – age estimated 29 at death, June 26, 1813) and wife (m. August 29, 1808) Mary Ann Cabot (baptised May 9, 1784 — July 25, 1809), with whom he had three children. After Elizabeth's death, he married his second wife, Adele Granger Thayer (September 1820 — June 16, 1892), daughter of Francis Granger and Cornelia Rutson Van Rensselaer (1798 — December 29, 1823), on November 15, 1865.

After studying law with Daniel Webster he was admitted to the bar in 1831 and practiced in Boston. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1835 to 1840, and served as Speaker of the House of that body from 1838 to 1840.

Winthrop was elected US Representative from Massachusetts as a Whig to the 26th United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Abbott Lawrence; he was reelected to the 27th Congress and served from November 9, 1840, to May 25, 1842, when he resigned. He was subsequently elected to the 27th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of his successor, Nathan Appleton; he was reelected to the 28th and to the three succeeding Congresses and served from November 29, 1842 until to July 30, 1850, and served as the Speaker of the House during the 30th Congress. To date he is the last Speaker who was neither a Republican nor a Democrat. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1849.[1]

After George McClellan.

With his political career over at the young age of 41, Winthrop spent the remainder of his life in literary, historical, and philanthropic pursuits.[2] He was a major early patron of the Boston Public Library and president of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1855 to 1885, during which time he wrote a biography of his ancestor John Winthrop. He served as the president of the Massachusetts Bible Society for several years where he advocated that Christian morality was the necessary condition of a free society.[3] His most notable Christian philosophy for governing men, was as follows:

"Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet."[4]

His most notable contributions came as permanent Chairman and President of the ceremony that opened the Washington Monument in 1848.[5]

He died in Boston in 1894, and is interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One of his children was Robert Charles Winthrop, Jr. (December 7, 1834 — June 5, 1905), who married on June 1, 1869 Elizabeth Mason (October 1, 1844 — April 22, 1924), daughter of Robert Means Mason (September 25, 1810 — March 13, 1879) and wife (m. December 4, 1843) Sarah Ellen Francis (May 17, 1819—September 27, 1865) and paternal granddaughter of Jeremiah Mason and wife Mary Means. Robert Jr.'s daughter Margaret Tyndal Winthrop (February 23, 1880 — July 7, 1970)[6] married at 10 Walnut St., on November 28, 1906 James Grant Forbes. James and Margaret were the parents of Rosemary Isabel Forbes. Rosemary married Richard John Kerry on February 8, 1941. Richard and Rosemary were the parents of United States Senator and 2004 Presidential candidate John Forbes Kerry.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions", Robert Charles Winthrop, Google Book Search. Retrieved 07-03-2007.
  3. ^ Speech to the Massachusetts Bible Society (05-28-1849), quoted in Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions, Little, Brown & Co., 1852, p. 172.
  4. ^ Source: Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1852, p. 172 from his "Either by the Bible or the Bayonet.")
  5. ^
  6. ^ New York Times 1970 Jl 9, 37:6

External links

  • Robert Charles Winthrop at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Robert C. Winthrop at Find A Grave
  • Winthrop's role as Chairman of the PEF
  • Robert Winthrop, "Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions," Little, Brown and Company, 1852 - 776 pages)
  • The Ancestors of Senator John Forbes Kerry (b. 1943)
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Abbott Lawrence
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st congressional district

November 9, 1840 – May 25, 1842
Succeeded by
Nathan Appleton
Preceded by
Nathan Appleton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st congressional district

November 29, 1842 – July 30, 1850
Succeeded by
Samuel Atkins Eliot
Political offices
Preceded by
John Wesley Davis
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
December 6, 1847 – March 4, 1849
Succeeded by
Howell Cobb
United States Senate
Preceded by
Daniel Webster
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Massachusetts
July 30, 1850 – February 1, 1851
Served alongside: John Davis
Succeeded by
Robert Rantoul, Jr.
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