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Winchester, Josiah (1888?) | University of Miami Finding Aids

Name: Winchester, Josiah (1888?)
Variant Name: Judge Josiah Winchester

Historical Note:

Judge Josiah Winchester was an attorney, political figure, and cotton baron who lived in Natchez from at least the 1840s.  Little is known of his early life, but his father, George Winchester, came to Mississippi in 1790 and was a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1827.  George is believed to have set up his legal practice in Natchez, and Josiah took charge after his father's death.  Josiah Winchester was the executor of Dr. John Jenkins' estate, and he was in close contact with both of the orphaned sons.

In December 1860, Winchester was elected to the Mississippi state convention which dealt with the subject of secession from the Union.  Before going, Winchester said that disunion was similar to "committing suicide for fear we shall die a natural death."  Commenting on Sectionism among the upper and lower South, he said, "And what will be the final result?  Another split and a new secession."  In January 1861 Winchester voted against secession, but the convention went against him, and Mississippi seceded from the Union.

After the Civil War, Judge Winchester became the leading exponent of imported Chinese labor to replace freed slaves; he sought to use "Coolie labor" on the plantations and in new factories set up along the river.  He went so far as to send agents to China to sign up workers who would be given food, shelter, and a little in wages.  Winchester calculated that this type of workforce would be more economical than slaves would have been, because they were more expensive to purchase.  His scheme was devised around 1868, but by 1873 it failed from lack of investment, an economic panic, and government intervention.

Judge Winchester also had dealings with the United States Bank at New Orleans and S.J. Hoggatt,  a plantation owner. Winchester lived until 1887 or 1888.

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