John Denison Baldwin

For other people with the same name, see John Baldwin (disambiguation).
John Denison Baldwin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1869
Preceded by Charles R. Train
Succeeded by George Frisbie Hoar
Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives
from the Blank district
In office
Preceded by George S. Catlin
Succeeded by William W. Boardman
Personal details
Born September 28, 1809
North Stonington, Connecticut, US
Died July 8, 1883 (aged 70)
Worcester, Massachusetts, US
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lemira Hathaway
Profession Minister, Writer, Editor
Religion Congregationalist

John Denison Baldwin (September 28, 1809 – July 8, 1883) was an American politician, Congregationalist minister, newspaper editor, and popular anthropological writer. He was a member of the Connecticut State House of Representatives and later a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts.


Baldwin briefly studied law, but graduated with a degree in theology from Yale Divinity School in 1834. He became a Congregationalist minister and preached in West Woodstock, North Branford, and North Killingly, all in Connecticut. In 1839 Yale awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree.

He became a member of the Connecticut State House of Representatives in 1847.

Baldwin was active in the Free Soil[1] and anti-slavery movements.[2] He edited anti-slavery journals the "Republican" (published in Hartford) and the "Commonwealth" (published in Boston), and from 1859 became the owner and editor of the "Worcester Spy," what George Frisbie Hoar called "one of the most influential papers in New England."[2]

From this time onwards Baldwin was resident in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was a delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention, where Abraham Lincoln was nominated as Republican presidential candidate, and in 1863 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Massachusetts's 8th congressional district. A "close friend" of both Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson,[3] Senators from Massachusetts, Baldwin served for three terms in the House, promoting full equal rights for black Americans in the wake of the Civil War. In 1869, when George F. Hoar was nominated as the Republican candidate for his seat, Baldwin returned full-time to his journalistic and anthropological work. He edited the Worcester Spy until his death in 1883. In 1867 Baldwin was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[4]


Baldwin married Lemira Hathaway of Bristol County, Massachusetts on April 3, 1832, and they had four children. Two daughters died by the age of 21, and neither married. Both of Baldwin's sons survived into adulthood and became partners in their father's newspaper business. The elder, John Stanton Baldwin, served as a captain in the Fifty-first Massachusetts Regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War.[1]

John D Baldwin was a distant cousin of Roger Sherman and of the Baldwin, Hoar, and Sherman political family. He was also a direct descendant of Mayflower passenger John Billington.

Anthropological writings and beliefs

Baldwin conducted correspondence with many notable thinkers of his time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, James Russell Lowell, and particularly his friend Charles Sumner. He accepted Darwin's theory of evolution while maintaining a belief in the divine origin of "first forms."

In 1865 he was elected a corporate member of the American Oriental Society. Baldwin's anthropological writing posited the origins of human civilization as arising among an Arabian or Northeast African people, the Cushites, in pre-historic times.

In Ancient America, In Notes on American Archaeology he also speculated on the origins of the "Mound Builder" people then believed to have constructed the famous mounds around the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, suggesting that they had been an aboriginal people who had migrated northwards from Central America or Mexico. He rejected the then-common notion that they had been a lost European, Semitic, or Asiatic people who had been wiped out by the North American Indians, asserting on the contrary that the Mounds were "wholly original, wholly American" and "did not come from the Old World".[5] He did, however, still subscribe to the idea that these "Mound Builders" were not the same as the American Indian inhabitants of the region at that time, who he believed were a separate race originating in Asia.



  1. 1 2 "Captain John Stanton Baldwin, U.S.V.". Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War. L.R. Hamersly & Co. (1893).
  2. 1 2 Hoar, George Frisbie. Autobiography of Seventy Years, Vol. 1–2. Chapter XII. New York, Scribner's Sons (1903). (available online via Gutenberg Project:
  3. Conteee, Clarence G (1976). "The Supreme Court Bar's First Black Member". Supreme Court Historical Society 1976 Yearbook. The Supreme Court Historical Society. Archived from the original on July 13, 2007. Retrieved May 16, 2007.
  4. American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  5. Baldwin, John D., Ancient America, in notes on American archæology, New York, Harper, 1871, ISBN 1-56459-657-5.


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