Presidential Cabinet Secretary. He was born in Steubenville, Ohio. In 1827 his father died, forcing the 13-year-old to leave school and work in a Steubenville bookstore to supplement the family's income. Keeping up with his studies in his spare time, in 1831 he was able to enter Kenyon College, where he attended for 2 years until his funds became low. In Columbus he completed his studies in law in the office of his guardian and became a lawyer in 1836. From 1849 to 1856 he was counsel for the state of Pennsylvania, establishing a national reputation as he practiced before the United States Supreme Court. It was also during this time, (in 1855), that he first met Abraham Lincoln during the McCormick v. Manny case. Afterward his most important work was as special counsel for the United States government in 1858 litigating fraudulent land claims in California. A year later, he served as Congressman Daniel Sickles' attorney. Sickles, had found his young wife in a compromising situation with Philip Barton Key II, son of Francis Scott Key, the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Sickles chased young Key from his house onto Lafayette Square, (which is in front of the White House), and in front of dozens of witnesses, he drew a pistol, shot, and killed Key. Sickles even admitted to him that he killed Key because he deserved it. So he presented a novel defense, arguing that Sickles was temporarily insane when he committed the crime and asked the court to acquit the congressman by reason of insanity. The court agreed and for the first time in American law the insanity defense had been used successfully. His earlier success in California, won for him the appointment of attorney general on December 20, 1860, under President James Buchanan. Opposed to slavery, he nonetheless felt that the South's rights had to be protected in order to save the Union. Thus he accepted the Dred Scott decision, supported the Buchanan programs, and backed John C. Breckinridge in the 1860 presidential race. After Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president, he returned to private life and back to his law practice. He was serving as legal adviser to Secretary of War Simon Cameron; when Lincoln removed Cameron from office; he was appointed in his place. With his acceptance to join Lincoln's cabinet, he sacrificed a yearly income of $40,000 to $50,000 as a successful lawyer for a cabinet salary of just $8,000. With no military experience, he moved into the office with zeal, fighting fraud and waste in the rapidly enlarged military. A capable organizer, he brought order out of chaos. He worked well with congressional leaders and his generals in the field. When one, George B. McClellan, a personal friend, failed to perform adequately he was one of the leading forces pushing for his removal. His opinion of Lincoln began to change when he found out that the president also wanted McClellan removed from command. His manner and his restrictions on the press earned him few friends and later led to some apparently unfounded charges that he was behind the assassination of Lincoln. After the war, he remained in Andrew Johnson's Cabinet while advocating Reconstruction, he worked with the Radical Republicans in their efforts to secure harsher treatment for the South. This brought him into conflict with Johnson. Matters came to a head in 1868 when the president sought to remove him from office. Congress reinstated him under the Tenure of Office Act but Johnson persisted. At that point he refused to leave his office until removed by force. He finally resigned on May 26, 1868, when it became apparent that the president would win out. Even though he left office this affair would lead to the impeachment of Johnson. Worn by his hard work during the Civil War, he refused several opportunities to run for public office in order to recover his strength. On Ulysses S. Grant's election to the presidency, he offered him a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Sadly he died four days after Congress had confirmed his nomination to the Court.
Bio by: Ugaalltheway