About Willard Saulsbury, Sr.
Willard Saulsbury, Sr. (June 2, 1820 - April 6, 1892) was a lawyer and politician from Georgetown, in Sussex County, Delaware. He was a member of the Democratic Party, who served as Attorney General of Delaware, U.S. Senator from Delaware and Chancellor of Delaware.
Early life and family
Saulsbury was born in Mispillion Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, son of William & Margaret Ann Smith Saulsbury. He was a younger brother of Governor Gove Saulsbury and U.S. Senator Eli M. Saulsbury. He married Annie Ponder, sister of Governor James Ponder, and they had three children, John Ponder, Margaret, and Willard Jr.. They were members of the Episcopal Church. Saulsbury was educated at Dickinson College and Delaware College, which is now the University of Delaware, studied law, was admitted to the Delaware Bar, and began his practice in Georgetown, Delaware.
Saulsbury was the Delaware Attorney General from 1850 until 1855, and was elected to the United States Senate in 1858, defeating incumbent U.S. Senator Martin W. Bates. Saulsbury was reelected in 1864, but was defeated for a third term in 1870 by his older brother, Eli M. Saulsbury. He served two full terms from March 4, 1859, to March 4, 1871. He then continued his law practice and served as Chancellor of Delaware from 1873 until his death in 1892.
In 1863, Saulsbury was a vehement critic of President Abraham Lincoln's administration. Opposing the war in general and the suspension of habeas corpus specifically, Saulsbury attempted to prevent a vote sustaining that controversial executive order. Apparently intoxicated, Saulsbury verbally attacked the President on the Senate floor in what John Hay described as "language fit only for a drunken fishwife". Senator Saulsbury called Lincoln "an imbecile" and stated that the President was "the weakest man ever placed in a high office". When Vice President Hannibal Hamlin called Saulsbury to order, the Senator refused to take his seat. Finally, the Senate's sergeant-at-arms approached to remove Saulsbury from the Senate floor when the Senator suddenly brandished a revolver, placed it against the sergeant's head and said, "Damn you, if you touch me I'll shoot you dead!" Eventually, Saulsbury was calmed and removed from the Senate floor.
Death and legacy
Saulsbury died at Dover and is buried there in the Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery. His son, Willard Saulsbury, Jr. was also a U.S. Senator.