Fred Dubois, U.S. Senator

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Fred Thomas Dubois

Birthplace: Palestine, Crawford, IL, USA
Death: Died in Washington, District of Columbia, DC, USA
Cause of death: bronchial pneumonia and myocarditis
Place of Burial: Grove City Cemetery Blackfoot Bingham County Idaho
Immediate Family:

Son of Jesse Kilgore Dubois and Adelia Dubois
Husband of Edna Maxfield Dubois
Father of Elizabeth Mary Dubois and Edna Margaret Toussaint
Brother of Jesse Kilgore Dubois and Lincoln Dubois
Half brother of Jane White and Susan Adams

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Immediate Family

About Fred Dubois, U.S. Senator

Fred Thomas Dubois (May 29, 1851 – February 14, 1930) was a controversial American politician who served two terms in the United States Senate from Idaho. He was best-known for his opposition to the gold standard and his efforts to disenfranchise Mormon voters.

Early life and career

Dubois was of French-Canadian descent. His paternal grandfather, Toussaint Dubois, was an immigrant who distinguished himself at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Dubois' father, Jesse K. Dubois, was an official at the United States Land Office in Palestine, Illinois, a former judge and state legislator, an early supporter of the Republican Party, and a close friend of fellow Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln. In 1856 the elder Dubois was elected Illinois State Auditor and moved the family to the state capital, Springfield.

Fred Dubois studied at Yale from 1870 to 1872, where he was elected to Scroll and Key. He then participated in business until 1875, when he was appointed to the board of railroad and warehouse commissioners of Illinois. He held this position for one year, resigning shortly before the death of his father. In 1880, he moved to Idaho Territory with his brother, Jesse Dubois, Jr. (1850–1908), a doctor.

In 1882, Dubois was appointed to be the United States Marshal for the Idaho Territory. During this period Dubois launched a successful campaign to disenfranchise Mormon voters in Idaho Territory on the grounds they broke the law by practicing polygamy.

Territorial delegate

Based on this political success, in 1886 Dubois ran as a Republican for the Congressional delegate position from Idaho Territory. He defeated the Democratic incumbent, John Hailey, and remained in the position until statehood.

Dubois strongly supported Idaho's application for statehood and opposed efforts to split the territory among neighboring regions. He reputedly lobbied President Benjamin Harrison in support of Idaho statehood by alluding to the common Battle of Tippecanoe connection between Dubois' grandfather and Harrison's grandfather, William Henry Harrison.


Idaho Territory became the State of Idaho in July 1890. In November of that year Dubois helped engineer a plan for the Idaho Legislature to effectively elect three people to the United States Senate: Governor George L. Shoup to the Class 2 seat up for election in 1894, state constitutional convention member William J. McConnell to serve for the remainder of the Fifty-first United States Congress ending in March 1891, and Dubois himself to succeed McConnell and serve a full six-year term in the Class 3 seat beginning in March 1891.

During his first term in the Senate, Dubois concentrated on domestic politics, advocating for positions that he thought would benefit Idaho. He was a strong supporter of tariffs, particularly on wool and lead which Idaho produced much of. He also helped to negotiate a treaty with the Nez Perce Native Americans in 1894. In 1895, commenting on the exemption of the Bannocks from hunting limits, he said, "the extermination [driven over the boundary] of the whole lazy, shiftless non-supporting tribe of Bannocks would not be any great loss."

Dubois' most prominent position, however, was in support of bimetallism. In 1896, he was among those who left the Republican Party to join the Silver Republican faction. He considered having the Idaho Republicans fuse with the Democrats and Populists, but his allies were ousted from the Idaho Republican Party. This disorganization gave control of the Idaho Legislature to the Democrats and Populists. In 1896 Dubois was defeated for reelection in the Idaho Legislature by Populist Henry Heitfeld. After leaving the Senate in 1897, Dubois returned to his ranch in Blackfoot, where he grew alfalfa.

Return to the Senate

As the Silver Republican faction declined, it was thought by many that Dubois' political career was over. But in 1900, after refusing to rejoin the Republican Party, he was elected again to the United States Senate by the Democratic Idaho Legislature by defeating Shoup, his onetime political ally. Shortly after returning to the Senate in 1901, Dubois switched parties and joined the Democratic Party, one of few politicians in that era to do so. He remains the only person in Idaho history to serve in the United States Congress as both a Republican and a Democrat.

During his second term in the Senate, Dubois continued to advocate abandoning the gold standard, but focused most of his attention on opposition to imperialism and Mormonism. Dubois led a group of senators which tried to force Reed Smoot of Utah, the first Mormon ever elected to the Senate, to resign.

Dubois strongly opposed efforts to make the Philippines, which were annexed from Spain after the Spanish-American War, an American territory. Dubois first supported independence for the Philippines, but after a 1905 visit he declared that Filipinos could not rule themselves and advocated selling the islands to Japan. His main reason for opposing expansion was that he was afraid of the new territories' economic competition with the rest of America. Dubois also supported strong limits on Chinese immigration.

Dubois broke with most Democrats of the day and supported President Theodore Roosevelt's agenda of environmental conservationism. He supported William Randolph Hearst for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1904.

Defeat and later years

Caused in no small part by Dubois' obsession with anti-Mormonism, Democrats in Idaho suffered significant electoral losses during his second term in the Senate. In 1906, a Republican Idaho Legislature chose prominent Boise attorney William Borah to replace Dubois in the Senate.

Dubois lived the rest of his life in Washington, D.C. He made attempts at writing and business, which largely failed. He supported Champ Clark for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912, but after Clark's defeat he worked for the Woodrow Wilson campaign in 1912 and 1916. His last major political action was in 1918 when he supported the election of various politicians from both parties in Idaho to support Wilson's progressive agenda, including Borah. Dubois served on the Board of Ordinance from 1918 to 1920 and on a commission on U.S. boundary disputes with Canada from 1924 until his death on February 14, 1930. He was buried in Blackfoot.


The town of Dubois in Clark County, as well as Dubois Avenue in Twin Falls are named after Dubois.

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Fred Dubois, U.S. Senator's Timeline

May 29, 1851
Palestine, Crawford, IL, USA
Age 48
Age 51
February 14, 1930
Age 78
Washington, District of Columbia, DC, USA
Grove City Cemetery Blackfoot Bingham County Idaho