William Gregory: Champion of the Confederacy

Brian Jenkins describes how, during his visit to America in 1859-60, Gregory conceived an admiration for the South and was its Parliamentary protagonist until 1863.

At the close of the Parliamentary session of 1859 William Gregory, one of the Members, embarked at Liverpool for North America. A mixture of curiosity and adventure, and the opportunity to visit overseas members of his family, prompted his decision to travel, as did the sorry state of his personal finances. At the age of forty-two, having frittered away much of his fortune in betting, Gregory was at last seeking to put his life in order. Most of his major debts had been settled, and, by removing himself from Britain, he had hopes that those still outstanding could be cleared up.

The journey began with a nerve-racking crossing of the Atlantic, and was soon marred by tragedy. One of Gregory’s fellow passengers had been John Head, the only son of the governor of Canada, and on their arrival in eastern Canada they joined a foray by the Heads into the Canadian backwoods. Young Head was drowned and Gregory was one of the sad band that accompanied the body back to Quebec for burial.

From the gloom of the Canadian capital Gregory escaped as quickly as he could, moving on to Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara, before crossing the border into the United States. He visited Chicago and Quincy, then travelled down the Mississippi to St Louis. The next stop was Louisville, then on to Cincinnati, Cumberland, Va., Washington, Baltimore and New York, before returning to Canada to stay with members of his family in Toronto.

Finally, he retraced his path through New York, Baltimore and Washington, and moved South to New Orleans. From there he returned home via the West Indies. His experiences in the United States had a profound impact upon him and did much to shape his later conduct as the leading spokesman for the Confederate cause in the House of Commons.

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