Caleb Cushing

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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 TylerTyler, John,
1790–1862, 10th President of the United States, b. Charles City co., Va. Early Career

Educated at the College of William and Mary, he studied law under his father, John Tyler (1747–1813), governor of Virginia from 1808 to 1811, and was
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, after the death of President William H. HarrisonHarrison, William Henry,
1773–1841, 9th President of the United States (Mar. 4–Apr. 4, 1841), b. "Berkeley," Charles City co., Va.; son of Benjamin Harrison (1726?–1791) and grandfather of Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901).
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, rather than follow Henry ClayClay, Henry,
1777–1852, American statesman, b. Hanover co., Va. Early Career

His father died when he was four years old, and Clay's formal schooling was limited to three years.
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 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 PiercePierce, Franklin,
1804–69, 14th President of the United States (1853–57), b. Hillsboro, N.H., grad. Bowdoin College, 1824. Admitted to the bar in 1827, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, like his father, Benjamin Pierce, who was twice elected governor of
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 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 claimsAlabama claims,
claims made by the U.S. government against Great Britain for the damage inflicted on Northern merchant ships during the American Civil War by the Alabama
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 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.