Gwin, William McKendree, 1805–85, American politician, b. Sumner co., Tenn. He received (1828) a degree in medicine from Transylvania Univ. and practiced in Clinton, Miss., until 1833. He represented Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives (1841–43) and went to California in 1849. There he threw himself into the movement for statehood and was an outstanding leader in the state constitutional convention. One of the first U.S. Senators from California (1850–55, 1857–61) and chief spokesman for the slavery interests there, he became involved in several battles with his ambitious antislavery rival, David C. Broderick. During the Civil War, Gwin was imprisoned several times as a Southern sympathizer. In 1863 he went to France where he won the support of Napoleon III for a scheme to colonize N Mexico with settlers from the Confederacy, but his plans were thwarted by the opposition of Emperor Maximilian.
See biography by L. Thomas (1969).
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