Dr. James Clarke Welling 1825-1894
Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography
By James Grant Wilson, John Fiske
Published by D. Appleton and company, 1889
WELLING, James Clarke, educator, b. in Trenton, N. J., 14 July, 1825. He was graduated at Princeton in 1844, and, after studying law, renounced that profession in 1848 to become associate principal of the New York Collegiate School.
In 1850 he was secured by Joseph Gales and William W. Seaton as literary editor of the " National Intelligencer" at Washington, and he was afterward associated with them in the political conduct of that journal, becoming charged in 1856 with its chief management, for which post he was qualified by his accurate scholarship, his facility in writing, and his judicial temperament. His editorship continued through the crisis of the civil war.
Adhering to the old-line Whigs as against the Republican and the Democratic parties, he supported the Bell-Everett ticket for president and vice- president in 1860. Steadfastly resisting the disunion movement at the south in all its phases, he gave to the war for the Union his loyal support. He advocated Lincoln's proposition of emancipation with compensation to loyal owners, the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and its abolition throughout the Union by constitutional amendment; but he questioned the validity of the emancipation proclamation, and strenuously opposed the constitutionality of military commissions for the trial of citizens in loyal states, which practice was subsequently condemned by the supreme court.
The discussions of the " Intelligencer' during this period often took the form of elaborate papers on questions of constitutional or international law, and exercised an acknowledged influence on public opinion. Some of them have been republished, and are still cited in works of history and jurisprudence.
Dr. Welling withdrew from journalism in 1865, and spent the following year travelling in Europe for health and study. He had been previously appointed a clerk of the U. S. court of claims, and served in that office till 1867, when he was chosen president of St. John's College, Annapolis, Md. During his presidency the number of students advanced from 90 to 250. In 1868 he received the honorary degree of LL. D. from Columbian College (now George Washington University).
In 1870 he was appointed professor of belles-lettres in Princeton, but he resigned the post in the following year to accept the presidency of George Washington University. Under his administration that institution has been enlarged, has received a new charter from congress, erected a building in the heart of Washington, added new professional schools, and laid the foundation of a free endowment.
At the same time he has been connected with many literary, historical, and scientific societies. As president of the board of trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of art since 1877 he has devoted much time to its development, visiting in 1887 the studios of the chief artists of Europe in its interest.
In 1884 he was appointed a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and soon afterward he was elected chairman of its Executive Committee.
He was an active member of the Philosophical and Anthropological societies of Washington, was chosen in 1884 president of the former, and has contributed valuable memoirs to the published proceedings of both bodies.
He was president of the Copyright league of the District of Columbia. For many years he has been a contributor to periodicals.[i]
[i] (James Grant Wilson 1889) James G. Wilson was related to Dr. James Clarke Welling by marriage, Wilson had married Jane Cogswell, who was half-sister of Dr. Welling’s mother in-law, Elizabeth Lord Cogswell Dixon.