Henry A. Wise
Top hat in hand, Henry A. Wise stands for a glass-plate photographic portrait taken sometime between 1860 and 1870. Wise was a lawyer, member of the United States House of Representatives (1832–1844), U.S. minister to Brazil (1844–1847), and governor of Virginia (1856–1860). Wise also served as an influential pro-secession delegate during the Virginia Convention of 1861, and later as a brigadier general in the Confederate army during the Civil War.
Born in Accomack County on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Wise rose to national prominence during the political turmoil of the late antebellum period. A fiery politician and gifted orator with a mercurial temperament, he advocated a number of progressive positions, including capital improvements in western Virginia, broadening Virginia's electoral base through constitutional reform, and public funding for universal elementary education. Perhaps best known for being governor when John Brown attempted to spark a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry, Wise, instead of commuting Brown's death sentence, allowed the execution to take place, making possible the radical abolitionist's ascension to martyrdom. In 1872, Wise supported U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant, the former Union general-in-chief, in his campaign for reelection. Wise died in 1876 in Richmond at the age of sixty-nine.