William Henry Bissell (Notable Americans)

Rossiter Johnson, ed., "Bissell, George William," The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, vol. 1 (Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904).
BISSELL, William Henry, statesman, was born at Hartwick, Otsego county, N. Y., April 25, 1811. He obtained an education through his own efforts, earning the money in winter that enabled him to attend school in the summer. He was graduated at the Philadelphia medical college in 1835, practised for two years in Steuben county, N. Y., and for three years in Monroe county, IL., and was elected to the Illinois legislature, where he made quite a reputation as a ready and able debater. He turned his attention to the study of the law, was admitted to the bar, practised in Belleville, IL., and was elected prosecuting attorney of St. Clair county in 1844. During the Mexican war he served as captain of a company in the 2d Illinois volunteers, and took an active part in the battle of Buena Vista. He represented Illinois in the national house of representatives in the 31st, 32d and 33d congresses, from December, 1849, to March 3, 1855, and hia emphatic opposition to the Missouri compromise involved him in a controversy with southern Democrats. The question as to the bravery of the soldiers from the north as compared with that shown by the south in the Mexican war led to a debate with Jefferson Davis, and resulted in Mr. Bissell being challenged by Mr. Davis. He accepted the challenge, and chose muskets as the weapons to be used at thirty paces. The friends of Mr. Davis interfered at this juncture and the duel was never fought. On the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, Mr. Bissell separated from the Democratic party and was elected governor of Illinois on the Republican ticket, serving by re-election from 1856 until his death, which occurred at Springfield, IL., March 18, 1860.
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