Abraham Baldwin

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For his nephew, see Abraham Dudley Baldwin.
Abraham Baldwin
Abraham Baldwin by Naegele.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
March 4, 1799 – March 3, 1807
Preceded by Josiah Tattnall
Succeeded by George Jones
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1799
Preceded by district created
Succeeded by James Jones
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1793
Preceded by district created
Succeeded by Converted to at-large districts
President of the University of Georgia
In office
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Josiah Meigs
Delegate from Georgia to the Congress of the Confederation
In office
1785 – 85, 1787–88
Personal details
Born (1754-11-23)November 23, 1754
Guilford, Connecticut
Died March 4, 1807(1807-03-04) (aged 52)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, DC
Alma mater Yale University

Abraham Baldwin (November 22, 1754 – March 4, 1807) was a Connecticut-born and raised minister, Patriot, American politician, and Founding Father. A graduate of Yale University Divinity School, after the Revolutionary War Baldwin became a lawyer. He moved to the U.S. state of Georgia in the mid-1780s to work under the governor and develop its educational system. Baldwin is noted as the developer and founding president of the University of Georgia (1785-1801), the first state-chartered public institution of higher education in the United States.

After serving in the state Assembly, Baldwin was elected as a Georgia representative in the Continental Congress and one of two signatories from Georgia of the United States Constitution. He served in the United States House of Representatives for five terms and in the Senate from 1799 until his death in office in Washington, DC.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Abraham Baldwin was born in 1754 in Guilford, Connecticut in a large family. His father was a blacksmith. His half-brother, Henry Baldwin, was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. After attending a local village school, Abraham Baldwin attended Yale University in nearby New Haven, Connecticut, where he was a member of the Linonian Society. He graduated in 1772.

Three years later after theological study, he became a minister. He also served as a tutor at the college. He held that position until 1779. During the American Revolutionary War, he served as a chaplain in the Connecticut Contingent of the Continental Army. He did not see combat while with the Continental troops.[1]

Two years later at the conclusion of the war, Baldwin declined an offer from Yale for a divinity professorship. Instead of resuming his ministerial or educational vocation after the war, he turned to the study of law. In 1783 he was admitted to the bar.

Move to Georgia[edit]

Baldwin was recruited by Governor Lyman Hall of Connecticut to work for the Georgia governor in developing a state education plan. He moved to Georgia, where he became active in politics to build support for a college. He was appointed as a delegate to the Confederation Congress and the Constitutional Convention, and was one of the state’s two signatories to the U.S. Constitution.

Abraham Baldwin was appointed in 1785 to serve as the first president of the University of Georgia during its initial planning phase to 1801. During this period, he also worked with the legislature on the college charter.

In 1801, Franklin College, UGA's initial college, opened to students. Josiah Meigs was hired to succeed Baldwin as president and oversee the inaugural class of students. The first buildings of the college were architecturally modeled on Baldwin's alma mater of Yale. (Later the university sports team adopted as its mascot, the bulldog, also in tribute to Baldwin, as it is the mascot of Yale.)


Baldwin was elected to the Georgia Assembly, where he became very active, working to develop support for the college. He was able to mediate between the rougher frontiersmen, perhaps because of his childhood as the son of a blacksmith, and the aristocratic planter elite who dominated the coastal Lowcountry. He became one of the most prominent legislators, pushing significant measures such as the education bill through the sometimes split Georgia Assembly.[1][2]

He was elected as representative to the U.S. Congress in 1788. The Georgia legislature elected him as U.S. Senator in 1799[3] (this was the practice until popular election in 1913.) He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate from December 1801 to December 1802. He was re-elected and served in office until his death.

Death and legacy[edit]

On March 4, 1807, at age 52, Baldwin died while serving as a U.S. senator from Georgia. Later that month the Savannah Republican and Savannah Evening Ledger reprinted an obituary that had first been published in a Washington, D.C., newspaper: "He originated the plan of The University of Georgia, drew up the charter, and with infinite labor and patience, in vanquishing all sorts of prejudices and removing every obstruction, he persuaded the assembly to adopt it."[4]

His remains are interred at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.[5]



  1. ^ a b Wright, Jr., Robert K.; MacGregor Jr., Morris J. (1987). "Abraham Baldwin". Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington D.C: United States Army Center of Military History. LCCN 87001353. OCLC 15549460. CMH Pub 71-25. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Rowe, H.J. (2000). History of Athens & Clarke County. Southern Historical Press. 
  3. ^ Congressional Biography
  4. ^ "Abraham Baldwin (1754–1807)", New Georgia Encyclopedia (2009-01-06), Retrieved on 2013-07-21
  5. ^ Abraham Baldwin at Find a Grave
  6. ^ Odd Wisconsin Archives. Wisconsinhistory.org (2006-03-29). Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  7. ^ "Special Report on the Abraham Baldwin Statue Initiative". UGA's External Affairs. n.d. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
New Seat
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1789 – March 4, 1793
Succeeded by
Converted to At-Large districts
Preceded by
Converted from district seats
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1793 – March 4, 1799
Succeeded by
James Jones
United States Senate
Preceded by
Josiah Tattnall
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Georgia
March 4, 1799 – March 4, 1807
Served alongside: James Gunn, James Jackson, John Milledge
Succeeded by
George Jones
Political offices
Preceded by
James Hillhouse
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
December 7, 1801 – December 13, 1802
Succeeded by
Stephen R. Bradley