Educated in common schools and with private tutor. (honorary Master of Arts, University of Vermont, 1855. Doctor of Laws, Middlebury, 1869, University of Vermont, 1879, Trinity, 1887, Dartmouth, 1890).
Member of Vermont Legislature. Speaker; President, pro tern., Senate at times, 1856 to 1863. Senator United States from Vermont, 1866-1891, and President, pro terra., 1883-1885.
Author of Act of March 22, 1882, for suppression of polygamy in Utah and disfranchisement of those who practice it, known as Edmunds Act. Also of the anti-trust law of 1890. President pro tem of the United States Senate during presidency of General Arthur.Was a leader in Senate on Republican side. Received 34 votes for presidential nomination National Republican Convention, 1880, and 93 votes, 1884. Notable as a constitutional lawyer.In 1897 became chairman of the Monetary Commission appointed by Executive Committee of the Indianapolis Monetary Conference.
Member of Vermont House of Representatives, 1854-1859 (speaker, 1856-1859). Member and president of pro tem Vermont Senate, 1861-1862. Member of Electoral Commission, 1877.