History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/James Thorington
JAMES THORINGTON was born on the 7th of May, 1816, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a graduate of the State University of Alabama, and studied law with his father. He located at Davenport, Iowa, in 1839, where he began practice. In 1842 he was chosen mayor of the city, serving four years. He was one of the leaders in the Free Soil movement and in 1854 was nominated for Representative in Congress for the Second District by the antislavery elements of the various parties. The district embraced all of the northern half of the State and few expected the Free Soil candidate to be elected. Several prominent men declined the nomination and it was offered to Mr. Thorington. He said, “Gentlemen, I am not anxious to take the chances, but if you choose to nominate me, I will make an aggressive canvass and shall expect to be elected.” His response aroused enthusiasm, he was nominated and made a vigorous campaign, having for his Democratic competitor Ex-Governor Stephen Hempstead. Thorington was elected by more than 1,500 majority. He served two years from March, 1855, and was largely instrumental in securing to Iowa the land grants of 1850 for the aid of railroads. This most important act gave to his district three trunk lines of railroad from the Mississippi to the Missouri River. But it compassed his defeat for renomination. Delegates in the convention from counties not on the lines of the projected railroads united against him and nominated a Republican in Dubuque. Mr. Thorington was one of the leaders in the political movement which resulted in uniting the antislavery elements into the Republican party in 1855-6. In 1858 he was a candidate for United States Senator to succeed George W. Jones but James W. Grimes was nominated and elected. Mr. Thorington was appointed by the Governor agent for the State at Washington to secure title to the swamp lands embraced in the grant. In 1872 he was appointed by President Grant United States Consul to Aspinwall, where he served ten years. It has often been remarked that our State never sent a Representative to Congress who accomplished so much in a single term as this first Republican member from Iowa, died June 12, 1889, at Santa Fe in New Mexico.