Francis Barretto Spinola first Italian American elected the United States Congress.

Francis Barretto Spinola (1821-1891) holds a dominant position in Italian American politics. The first of his heritage to be elected to the New York State Assembly, the New York Senate, and the United States Congress, he was also one of three Italian American generals during the Civil War. Born in Stony Brook, New York in 1821, he was the son of a venerable Genovese family on his father's side, and an American-born mother of Irish descent whose father had fought under George Washington. Raised and educated in a predominantly rural environment, he moved to the separate city of Brooklyn as a teenager where he tried his hand in various occupations before being appointed a clerk to the Brooklyn City Council. Spinola was admitted to the bar in 1844. Strongly attracted to the political whirligig of his day -a trait that would mark the rest of his life - he was elected alderman to Brooklyn's Common Council at the age of 22 and was later elected to the Board of Supervisors for Kings County. Originally a member of the Whig Party, Spinola became a Democrat, and supporter of Tammany Hall, remaining a staunch, loyal regular party member to the end. After the South fired on Fort Sumpter in April 1861, Spinola played a key role in rallying the New York State Senate in support of New York Governor Morgan's call for men. Spinola's role extended beyond oratory when he personally enlisted four regiments from Brooklyn, thus beginning a military career in which he served as a general, saw action and was twice wounded. Upon termination of the Civil War, Spinola resumed his political career repeatedly re-elected to the New York State Legislature until 1886 when he ran for the United States Congress and where he served for two terms. The highlight of his Congressional career was his sponsorship of a bill to erect a monument in Brooklyn to honor victims of British prison ships held there during the American Revolution. Although his political career largely preceded mass Italian immigration, Spinola shared a pride in his ethnic background.

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