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Jacob Merritt Howard
(July 10, 1805 – April 2, 1871)
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Jacob Howard was a Whig congressman (1841-1843) and Republican senator (1861-1871) from Maine.  He served on the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction and steered the Fourteenth Amendment, to which he added the citizenship clause, to passage in the Senate.

Jacob Howard was born on July 10, 1805, in Shaftsbury, Vermont, to Polly Millington Howard and Otis Howard, who were farmers.  He attended academies in Vermont and Williams College in Massachusetts.  After graduating in 1830, he read law in Ware, Massachusetts.  In 1832, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, was admitted to the state bar the next year, and became the city attorney in 1834.  He married Catherine Shaw in 1835; the couple later had five children.  In 1838, Howard was elected as a Whig to the Michigan House, where he helped revise the state’s legal code.  His colleagues nicknamed him “Honest Jake.”  Two years later he was elected to Congress, but did not seek reelection and returned to his law practice.

Howard spoke out forcefully against slavery and was among the key founders of the Republican Party in Michigan when the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened the Western territories to slavery.  He wrote the new party’s platform, chaired its Resolutions Committee, and was said to have suggested the party’s name.  Later that year, he was elected as a Republican to the state attorney generalship.  He served in that position until resigning in late 1861 when he was elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate.  Howard was a skilled constitutional lawyer, who aligned with the radical wing of the party, urging emancipation and confiscation of Confederate property.  He was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which drafted the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery.  He also served as chairman of the Committee on Pacific Railroads (1864-1871), and was reelected to a second term in early 1865.

Following the Civil War, Howard toured Virginia and the Carolinas to investigate the postwar situation, which convinced him that President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policies were inadequate.  In December 1865, the Michigan senator was named to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment.  Because of the illness of Chairman William Fessenden, Howard represented the Joint Committee on Reconstruction by opening the debate and steering the Fourteenth Amendment through the Senate.  He successfully amended Section One to include a definition of national citizenship, and won passage of the proposed constitutional amendment on June 8, 1866.  He also lent strong support to the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  In February 1868, Howard voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson for violating the Tenure of Office Act.

Howard retired from the Senate at the end of his term on March 3, 1871, returning to his home in Detroit, where he died a month later on April 2.

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