Caleb Cushing

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Cushing, Caleb

Cushing, Caleb, 1800–1879, American statesman, b. Salisbury, Mass. After practicing law he served in the Massachusetts state legislature and later in Congress (1835–43). A loyal Whig, he chose to stand by John Tyler, after the death of President William H. Harrison, rather than follow Henry Clay in his opposition program. As the first American commissioner to China, Cushing negotiated (1844) the opening of the ports of China to U.S. trade. He remained prominent in politics, engineered (1852) the nomination of Franklin Pierce at the Democratic convention of 1852, and served efficiently as Pierce's attorney general (1853–57). Secession convinced him that conciliation was impossible, and he supported Lincoln. He later acted (1871–72) as counsel for the United States at the arbitration of the Alabama claims and was (1874–77) minister to Spain.


See biography by C. M. Fuess (1923, repr. 1965).

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Cushing, Caleb

(1800–79) lawyer, public official; born in Salisbury, Mass. After serving in the Massachusetts legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives (Whig, 1835–41; Dem., 1841–43), he was appointed commissioner to China, where he negotiated the commercial treaty of Wang Hia (1844). An advocate of "manifest destiny," he volunteered and served in the Mexican War. President Franklin Pierce appointed him attorney general (1853–57) and he spoke out on many issues beyond the law. He had long been a Democrat and was opposed to the abolitionists, but he was also opposed to slavery itself and to secession, and when Lincoln won the election of 1860 he became a Republican and served as a legal consultant to Lincoln and his cabinet. Under President Grant, he carried through several notable diplomatic-legal negotiations; in 1873 Grant nominated him to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but partisan attacks led Cushing to withdraw his name. Instead, he wound up his long and varied career of public services as the popular U.S. ambassador to Spain (1873–77). An accomplished orator and linguist, as a lawyer he was most admired for his expertise at summarizing evidence. He was also extremely well read—Emerson called him the most eminent scholar of his day—and he wrote many articles as well as several books.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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