Harlan, James

Harlan, James

(1820–99) U.S. senator, college president, cabinet member; born in Clark County, Ill. He grew up on the frontier and was admitted to the bar in 1850. He was president of Iowa Conference University (now Iowa Wesleyan University) (1853–55, 1869–70). A U.S. senator from Iowa (Free Soil Party, 1855–61; Rep., 1861–65), he supported Lincoln (whose son, Robert Lincoln, later married Harlan's daughter). He was secretary of the interior (1865–66), in which capacity he is most noted for dismissing Walt Whitman from a clerical post. Returning to the U.S. Senate (Rep., Iowa; 1867–73), he voted for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. He failed in subsequent runs for senator and governor, but his long and sometimes controversial political career was rewarded when Iowa placed his statue in the U.S. Capitol.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.