Wilkins, William

Dickinson class of 1802, Wilkins became a wealthy lawyer and banker in Pittsburgh. By 1834, he was a Pennsylvania senator prominent enough to be considered for vice-president. As Tyler's Secretary of War in 1844, he strenuously advocated western expansion. In retirement, he was a vocal advocate of the Union and in the war was an octogenarian major-general in the Pennsylvania Home Guard.
Life Span
Dickinson Connection
Class of 1802
Full name
William Wilkins
Place of Birth
Burial Place
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Free State
No. of Spouses
Catherine Holmes (first wife), Matilda Dallas (second wife)
Dickinson (Carlisle College)
Attorney or Judge
Relation to Slavery
White non-slaveholder
Political Parties
Other Political Party
Harrison/Tyler Administration (1841-45)
US Senate
US House of Representatives
State legislature
State judge
Other state government
Union Army

William Wilkins (Congressional Biographical Dictionary)

WILKINS, William, a Senator and a Representative from Pennsylvania; born in Carlisle, Pa., December 20, 1779; attended Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1801 and commenced practice in Pittsburgh, Pa.; assisted in organizing the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Co. in 1810; first president of the Bank of Pittsburgh; president of the common council 1816-1819; member, State house of representatives 1820; appointed judge of the fifth judicial district of Pennsylvania 1821-1824; judge of the United States District Court for western Pennsylvania 1824-1831; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1826 to the Twentieth Congress; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-first Congress, but resigned before qualifying; elected as a Jacksonian to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1831, to June 30, 1834, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on the Judiciary (Twenty-second Congress), Committee on Foreign Relations (Twenty-third Congress); appointed United States Minister to Russia 1834-1835; unsuccessful candidate for election to the Twenty-seventh Congress in 1840; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth Congress and served from March 4, 1843, to February 14, 1844, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on the Judiciary (Twenty-eighth Congress); appointed Secretary of War by President John Tyler 1844-1845; member, State senate 1855-1857; major general of the Pennsylvania Home Guards in 1862; died in ‘Homewood,’ near Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pa., June 23, 1865; interment in Homewood Cemetery, Wilkinsburg, Pa., a town named for him.
“Wilkins, William,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000475.
How to Cite This Page: "Wilkins, William," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/6861.