Member Biography

William Wilkins 


Congressional Biographies; Portrait: Brady-Handy Collection, Lib. of Congress;also: John Newton Boucher,  A century and a half of Pittsburg and her people, illustrated. Vol. 2  ( John Newton Boucher : Author:, 1854-1933.p 466.

Sessions Office Position District Party
1857       22 Democrat
1858       22 Democrat

COUNTIES: Allegheny  


12/20/1779 - 06/23/1865

Major General William Wilkins (D22) Allegheny County 1857-1858

Early Life:

Major General William Wilkins born December 20, 1779, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, son of  John Wilkins Sr. and Catherine Rowan; attended Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; studied law, Judge David Watts; admitted to the bar in 1801; attorney, private practice, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1801-1806; private practice, Lexington, Kentucky, 1806-1807; private practice, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1808-1815; assisted in organizing the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Company, 1810; first president, Bank of Pittsburgh; married, Catherine Holmes Wilkins, 1812 (d.1816) remarried, Matilda Dallas Wilkins, children, Infant Daughter Wilkins, Charles Wilkins, Alexander J. Dallas Wilkins, Catharine H. Wilkins Hutchison, Sophia Bache Wilkins Carr, Henrietta C Wilkins; president, Pittsburgh City Council, 1816-1819; elected, Federalist, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives 1819-1820; presidential appointee, President judge, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Fifth Judicial District, 1820-1824; judge, United States District Court, Western Pennsylvania, 1824-1831; unsuccessful candidate, Twentieth Congress, 1826; elected, Democrat, Twenty-first Congress, resigned; elected, Jacksonian, United States Senate, 1831-1834, resigned; appointed, United States Minister to Russia 1834-1835; private practice, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1836-1843; unsuccessful candidate, Twenty-seventh Congress, 1840; elected, Democrat, Twenty-eighth Congress, 1843-1844; presidential appointed, Secretary of War, 1844-1845; elected, Pennsylvania State Senate 1855-1857; major general, Pennsylvania Home Guards, 1862; private practice, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1858-1865; died, June 23, 1865, Homewood, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; interment Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  

Early Career:

Reorganized, Pittsburgh Manufacturing Company, 1810; first president, Bank of Pittsburgh. Attorney, private law practice, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1801-1806, private law practice, Lexington, Kentucky, 1806-1807, private law practice, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1808-1815, 1836-1843, 1845-1854, 1858-1865. 

Pennsylvania Politics:

President, Pittsburgh City Council, 1816-1819. 

Elected, Federalist, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1819-1820. 

President Judge, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Fifth Judicial District, 1820-1824. 

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 22nd district, Allegheny County, 1857-1858. 

Continued Government Service/National Politics:

Appointee, Judge, President James Monroe, United States District Court for Western Pennsylvania 1824-1831. 

Unsuccessful candidate, United States House of Representatives, Twentieth Congress, 1826. 

Elected, Democrat, United States Representative, 1829-1830; resigned before qualifying. 

Elected, Jacksonian, United States Senator, Twenty-second Congress, 1831-1832; chairman, Judiciary Committee. 

Elected, Jacksonian, United States Senate, Twenty- third Congress, 1833-1834; member, Foreign Relations Committee. 

Minister to Russia, United States Department of State, 1834-1836.

Unsuccessful candidate, United States House of Representatives, Twenty-seventh Congress, 1840. 

Elected, Democrat, United States House of Representatives, Twenty-eighth Congress, 1843-1844; member, Judiciary Committee. 
Appointee, President John Tyler, Secretary of War, 1844-1845. 
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Biography:

Not currently available

Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Biography:

William Wilkins | Western District of Pennsylvania | United States District Court (

Federal Judiciary Biography:

Wilkins, William | Federal Judicial Center (


The Honorable William Wilkins was a “second” for Stewart during the famous January 8, 1806, Tarleton Bates and Thomas Stewart duel, resulting in the death of Mr. Bates.  It is the last duel of record in Pennsylvania, preceding the Pennsylvania. General Assembly’s act to abolish the horrid act of dueling.

Stewart fled to Baltimore, and never returned. His second, attorney William Wilkins, was censured by the bar for his participation in the duel. He lived with his brother Charles Wilkins in Lexington, Kentucky for a year. He later returned, though, served in the Pennsylvania Legislature and went on to become a member of Congress and President Tyler's secretary of war -- in the same Cabinet in which Bates supporter Henry Baldwin served as Treasury secretary. 

A second was a friend who came along to help prepare your weapons, make sure the other duelist wasn't going to ambush you and make sure the rules of the duel were being followed. Seconds were also supposed to try to defuse the situation that led to the duel by getting an apology from one party or another.

Wilkins is the namesake of Wilkins Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, a town named for him.

Father, Captain John Wilkins Sr., American Revolution. Brother, John Wilkins Jr. major general, United States Army. Sister, Nancy, married, Ebenezer Denny, first mayor of Pittsburgh. Nephew, Harmar Denny, United States Congressman from Pennsylvania; nephew, Ross Wilkins, notable jurist in Michigan.


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members W"Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.

A New Nation Votes (

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 22, 2006:  The Next Page: When political debate really was deadly serious | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

William Wilkins (1779-1865) - Find a Grave Memorial


Congressional Biography

After 2 session(s) serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, William Wilkins  went on to serve in congress