Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Henry Wise played an important role in local, state, and national affairs for forty years. He is best remembered as the Governor of Virginia who was responsible for the hanging of John Brown; however, he distinguished himself as a congressman, general, and foreign minister. I have chosen to examine and emphasize Wise's career as Minister to Brazil, 1844-1847. The first chapter of the thesis, however, will provide a biographical sketch of Henry A. Wise.

Wise was born and reared in my native county, Accomack. Although a man of great achievements, he is not well known in the county today. I have always been curious concerning the history of my area, which is long and distinguished. When I started reading about Wise, I found that very little had been written concerning his service in Brazil. In most writings dealling with Wise, the only mention of his diplomatic career concerns his attempt to abolish the illegal slave trade. The paradox of Wise, the slave owner and spokesman of slavery in the United States, and Wise, the ardent anti-slave trade American diplomat in Brazil, interests me. It is my hope that this thesis will shed some light on Wise, the diplomat.

I intend to show that Wise's personality was not compatible with the diplomatic service. He was too straight-forward, too impatient, and probably too stubborn to be an able diplomat. He was, however, hardworking, honest, and dedicated to his country. I hope to present Wise as a man who did his best in a situation that was simply not suited to his talents.

Included in

History Commons