Black, Jeremiah

Black, Jeremiah (Sullivan)

(1810–83) judge, cabinet officer; born in Stony Creek, Pa. Apprenticed to a lawyer in 1827, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1830. After 15 years as a judge on the Pennsylvania courts—including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court—he served President James Buchanan as U.S. attorney general (1857–60), defending federal laws and the Democratic Party. In the secession crisis that followed Lincoln's election as president in November 1860, Buchanan appointed Black secretary of state (December 17, 1860–March 4, 1861) and he struggled in vain to maintain the union. He antagonized so many in Congress that the Senate refused to confirm his appointment to the Supreme Court. Always rather temperamental and eccentric, he became despondent as the Civil War spread, but back in Pennsylvania after 1861 he regained fame and fortune in California land cases. Opposed to Lincoln's disregard of civil rights during the war, he was one of President Andrew Johnson's legal advisers during his impeachment. He spent his last years engaging in various public controversies and in trying to regulate the railroads and corporations in his home state of Pennsylvania.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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