Robert C. Winthrop, Sr., U.S. Senator, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

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Robert Charles Winthrop, Sr.

Birthdate: (85)
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Death: November 16, 1894 (85)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Lt. Gov. Thomas Lindall Winthrop and Elizabeth B Winthrop
Husband of Laura Welles; Cornelia Adele Winthrop and Elizabeth Cabot Blanchard
Father of Robert Charles Winthrop, Jr.
Brother of Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple Tappan; Sarah Bowdoin Sullivan; Grenville Temple Winthrop and Anna Warren

Occupation: US Rep frm MA; Spkr of Hse, speaker of the Hous of Rep. and Senator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert C. Winthrop, Sr., U.S. Senator, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

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

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

On March 12, 1832, he married Elizabeth Cabot Blanchard (Boston, Massachusetts, May 27, 1809 – June 14, 1842), daughter of Francis Blanchard (baptised Salem, Massachusetts, February 1, 1784 – age estimated 29 at death, Wenham, Massachusetts, June 26, 1813) and wife (m. Boston, Massachusetts, August 29, 1808) Mary Ann Cabot (baptised Salem, Massachusetts, May 9, 1784 – Boston, Massachusetts, July 25, 1809), with whom he had three children.

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.

After Daniel Webster resigned to become Secretary of State in 1850, Winthrop resigned from the House and was appointed by fellow Whig Governor George Briggs to fill the remainder of Webster's Senate term. Winthrop's views proved no more palatable to abolitionists than did Webster's, and he failed to win reelection by the Legislature to either of Massachusetts' Senate seats in 1851. Later that year, Winthrop actually won a popular plurality in the race for Massachusetts Governor but as the state Constitution required a majority, the election was thrown into the Legislature and the same coalition of Democrats and Free Soilers defeated him again. His final venture into elected political office was as a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1852. Afterwards, Winthrop became an independent, unsuccessfully supporting Millard Fillmore, John Bell, and 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. 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. His most notable contributions came as permanent Chairman and President of the Peabody Education Fund Trustees, which he served from 1867 to his death. As well as steering the contributions of the Peabody Trust, Winthrop gave his own money to various Southern schools, the most long lasting of which was the $1500 of seed money provided to a teacher's college that renamed itself Winthrop University in gratitude. He became a noted orator, delivering the eulogy for George Peabody in 1870 and at the ceremony that opened the Washington Monument in 1884.

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

One of his children was Robert Charles Winthrop, Jr. (Boston, Massachusetts, December 7, 1834 – Boston, Massachusetts, June 5, 1905), who married on June 1, 1869 Elizabeth Mason (Massachusetts, October 1, 1844 – Boston, Massachusetts, April 22, 1924), daughter of Robert Means Mason (Portsmouth, New Hampshire, September 25, 1810 – Savannah, Georgia, March 13, 1879) and wife (m. December 4, 1843) Sarah Ellen Francis (Massachusetts, May 17, 1819 – Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, September 27, 1865) and paternal granddaughter of Jeremiah Mason and wife Mary Means, whose daughter Margaret Tyndal Winthrop (Massachusetts, February 23, 1880 – Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, Brittany, July 7, 1970) married at 10 Walnut St., Boston, Massachusetts on November 28, 1906 James Grant Forbes.

Winthrop is a great-great-grandfather of United States Senator and 2004 Presidential candidate John Kerry, and a seventh generation descendant of the founding governor the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop.


A biography from the period reads: "Chiefly associated in the popular mind today as the favorite orator of great historical anniversaries, Robert C. Winthrop rests secure upon his reputation as a statesman achieved before the middle of the nineteenth century. Mr. Winthrop was born in Boston, May 12, 1809; graduated at Harvard in 1828, studied law with Daniel Webster, and served as a Henry Clay Whig in the Massachusetts Legislature from 1834 to 1840. During the next ten years he was in Congress, being Speaker of the House from 1847 to 1849, and distinguished himself as a ready debater and an accomplished parliamentarian. A series of impressive speeches on public questions delivered by him in Congress are still consulted as authorities. In 1850 he was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to Daniel Webster's seat in the Senate, when the latter became Secretary of State. A year later he retired from active political life, and devoted himself to literary, historical and philanthropical occupations. He was president of the Boston Provident Association for twenty-five years, of the Massachusetts Historical Society for thirty years, and has held many other posts of dignity and usefulness. His "Washington monument" speeches of 1848 and 1885, his Boston Centennial address of 1876, his great Yorktown oration, and many other of his public speeches, are noted for their fervid eloquence, patriotism and scholarship. There is a portrait of Mr. Winthrop in the Capitol at Washington, presented by the citizens of Massachusetts, and another in the hall of the Massachusetts Historical Society. From the outset he has been at the head of George Peabody's trust for Southern education. His works are "Life and Letters of John Winthrop" and "Washington, Bowdoin and Franklin."

ROBERT CHARLES WINTHROP ..... Birth: May 12, 1809 Death: Nov. 16, 1894

US Congressman, Senator. Represented MA’s 1st District in the United States House of Representatives on two different occasions. First elected to the seat to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Congressman Abbott Lawrence, serving from 1840 to 1842. In May 1842 he resigned his seat, but was again elected to it in November of that year when his successor, Congressman Nathan Appleton, resigned himself. He served his 2nd term from 1842 to 1850, and was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. In 1850 he again resigned, having been appointed as a Senator from Massachusetts in the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Daniel Webster (who Robert Winthrop had studied law underwhile a young man). Served in the Senate from 1850 to 1851. He unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Massachusetts after his time in the Senate ended. (bio by: Russ Dodge)

Family links:

 Thomas Lindall Winthrop (1760 - 1841)

 Elizabeth Cabot Blanchard Winthrop (1809 - 1842)*
 Adele Granger Winthrop (1820 - 1892)*

 Robert Charles Winthrop (1834 - 1905)*
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Burial: Mount Auburn Cemetery Cambridge Middlesex County Massachusetts, USA

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Maintained by: Find A Grave Originally Created by: Russ Dodge Record added: Mar 31, 2002 Find A Grave Memorial# 6304731

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Robert C. Winthrop, Sr., U.S. Senator, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives's Timeline

May 12, 1809
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
December 7, 1834
Age 25
November 16, 1894
Age 85
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States