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Adams, John (19 October 1735–04 July 1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1691–1760), a shoemaker, selectman, and deacon, and Susanna Boylston. He claimed as a young man to have indulged in “a constant dissipation among amusements,” such as swimming, fishing, and especially shooting, and wished to be a farmer. However, his father insisted that he follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joseph Adams, attend Harvard College, and become a clergyman. John consented, applied himself to his studies, and developed a passion for learning but refused to become a minister. He felt little love for “frigid John Calvin” and the rigid moral standards expected of New England Congregationalist ministers....

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Austin, Warren Robinson (12 November 1877–25 December 1962), U.S. senator and ambassador, was born in the rural community of Highgate Center, Vermont, near the Canadian border, the son of Chauncey Goodrich Austin, a successful country lawyer, and Anne Robinson. He attended the University of Vermont, receiving his Ph.B. in 1899. He married Mildred Lucas in 1901, and they had two children....

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Baker, Howard Henry, Jr. (15 Nov. 1925–26 June 2014), politician and diplomat, was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, to Howard Henry Baker, Sr., a lawyer and politician who subsequently served in the US House of Representatives (1951–1964), and Dora Ladd Baker. The Baker family were staunch Presbyterians, members of the Republican Party since the Civil War, and longtime defenders of civil rights for the minority African American population. Young Baker’s paternal grandfather was a prominent judge, and his maternal grandmother was the first female sheriff in Tennessee....

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Barnard, Daniel Dewey (11 September 1796–24 April 1861), lawyer, congressman, and diplomat, was born in East Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Barnard, a county judge, and Phebe Dewey. Barnard’s early years were spent on the family farm near Hartford, Connecticut. When he was twelve the family moved to Mendon, New York (near Rochester). His formal education started with a year at Lenox Academy, after which he transferred to Williams College, where he graduated in 1818....

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Bayard, Thomas Francis (29 October 1828–28 September 1898), U.S. senator, secretary of state, and ambassador to Great Britain, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Asheton Bayard, a political leader and U.S. senator, and Ann Francis. The family had been politically prominent in Delaware for generations, and Thomas was educated in private schools. In 1843, when his father moved briefly to New York, Thomas found employment in a mercantile house there and, for less than a year in about 1846–1847, in Philadelphia. Although he never attended college, he at about the age of twenty began to read law in Wilmington and was admitted to the bar in 1851. He developed a successful practice in Wilmington and Philadelphia administering estates and from 1853 to 1854 served as U.S. district attorney for Delaware. In 1856 he married Louise Lee, with whom he had three sons and six daughters....

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Borland, Solon (08 August 1811–15 December 1864), editor, U.S. senator, and diplomat, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. His father was politically active, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nansemond County between 1815 and 1820. In 1831 Borland married Huldah Wright, with whom he had two children. Following in the medical footsteps of his father, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School during the academic year of 1833–1834. He then practiced medicine in Suffolk, but upon the death of his wife in 1836 Borland moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he entered into a medical career with his brother, who was also a physician. In 1839 Borland married Eliza Hart, who died just a few months later. They had no children. By this time he had forsaken pills for politics, becoming the founding editor of the ...

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Cameron, Simon (08 March 1799–26 June 1889), secretary of war, U.S. senator, and ambassador to Russia, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Cameron, a tailor and tavern keeper, and Martha Pfoutz. Growing up in an often impoverished family, Cameron received little formal schooling. At age eleven he was placed as a ward in the family of a local doctor. Subsequently he apprenticed himself to several printers in the Lancaster-Harrisburg area, and he became the editor of a newspaper. In Harrisburg he caught the attention of important state politicians who helped his journalistic career. At age twenty-three he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the printing firm of Gales and Seaton, which printed the ...

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Grew, Joseph Clark (27 May 1880–25 May 1965), diplomat, U.S. ambassador to Japan, and undersecretary of state, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Sturgis Grew, a wool merchant, and Annie Crawford Clark. Grew’s family was among the more well-off Bostonians, and he was a distant cousin of the financier ...

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Hale, John Parker (31 March 1806–19 November 1873), senator and diplomat, was born in Rochester, New Hampshire, the son of John Parker Hale, a lawyer, and Lydia C. O’Brien. On the death of her husband in 1819, Hale’s mother took her thirteen children to Eastport, Maine, to live near her relatives and supported her family by taking in boarders. Despite the expense, she sent fourteen-year-old John to Phillips Exeter Academy in 1820 and to Bowdoin College in 1823. Although Hale was not an outstanding student, his cleverness carried him through scholastically, while his heartiness and resonant speaking voice made him a strong debater. After graduating in 1827, he trained for several years in law offices in Rochester and Dover, New Hampshire, before embarking on a successful law career in Dover in 1830. In 1834 he married Lucy Lambert; they had two children....

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Houghton, Alanson Bigelow (10 October 1863–16 September 1941), congressman, diplomat, and manufacturer, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Amory Houghton, a glass manufacturer, and Ellen Ann Bigelow. After operating a glass factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his grandfather, Amory Houghton, Sr., and his father operated the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company in New York (1864–1868). The company’s operations were then transferred to Corning, New York, and the company was renamed Corning Flint Glass Company; it was incorporated as the Corning Glass Works in 1875. After early education in Corning and St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, Alanson Houghton graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with an A.B. in 1886. He undertook graduate study at the Universities of Göttingen, Berlin, and Paris, with a focus on political economy. Before 1890 he also published articles on Italian finance in the ...

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Jay, John (12 December 1745–17 May 1829), diplomat and first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in New York City, the son of Peter Jay, a prosperous merchant, and Mary Van Cortlandt, a member of one of the great Dutch patroon landed families of the Hudson Valley. On 28 April 1774 John Jay joined another powerful landlord clan by marrying Sarah Livingston, daughter of a future governor of New Jersey; the couple had seven children....

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Keating, Kenneth Barnard (18 May 1900–05 May 1975), congressman, senator, ambassador, and judge, was born in Lima, New York, the son of Thomas Mosgrove Keating, a local businessman, and Louise Barnard, a schoolteacher. Much of Keating’s early education was at Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, New York. He then attended the University of Rochester (N.Y.), from which he graduated in 1919, and Harvard Law School, which granted him an LL.B. in 1923. From that date until he entered the U.S. Congress in 1947 Keating was active in the law firm of Harris, Beach, Wilcox and Dale, earning a reputation as an adroit trial lawyer. In 1928 Keating married Louise Depuy; they had one daughter....

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King, Rufus (24 March 1755–29 April 1827), U.S. senator and diplomat, was born in Scarborough, Maine, the son of Richard King, a merchant, and Isabella Bragdon. King entered Harvard in the summer of 1773. Soon he began a lifelong membership in the Episcopal church and with his fellow students shared the excitement kindled by the Coercive Acts and the movement toward independence. Though the son of a Tory, he denounced the arrival of British troops in June 1775. “America spurns the production of the petty tyrant,” asserted King, “and treating it with deserved contempt, stands firm upon the pillars of liberty, immovable as Heaven and determined as fate. One kindred spirit catches from man to man” (King, vol. 1, pp. 7–8). He graduated in 1777 at the head of his class....

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King, Thomas Butler (27 August 1800–10 May 1864), congressman and diplomat, was born in Palmer, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel King, a captain in the revolutionary war, and Hannah Lord. King attended Westfield Academy until both his parents died. In 1816 he was placed under the care of his uncle, Zebulon Butler, who arranged for King to study law under both Garrick Mallory, a lawyer and jurist in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and Henry King, Thomas’s brother. King was admitted to the bar in 1822....

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Mason, James Murray (03 November 1798–28 April 1871), U.S. representative, U.S. senator, and Confederate diplomat, was born in Georgetown, District of Columbia, the son of John Mason, a businessman and farmer, and Anna Maria Murray. He was a grandson of revolutionary era statesman ...

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Morrow, Dwight Whitney (11 January 1873–05 October 1931), investment banker, diplomat, and senator, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, the son of James Elmore Morrow, a mathematics teacher and school principal, and Clara Johnson. Dwight Morrow grew up in a close-knit and intellectually active family, which possessed all the virtues of “right-minded” Presbyterianism, yet was perennially short of money. He was a frail and sickly child who compensated for his diminutive size through precocity of intelligence and tenacity....

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Phelps, William Walter (24 August 1839–17 June 1894), congressman and minister to Germany, was born in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jay Phelps, a leading merchant and real estate magnate in New York City, and Rachel Badgerly. Upon graduation from Yale in 1860, Phelps immediately married Ellen Maria Sheffield; they had three children. Phelps graduated from Columbia Law School in 1863....

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Rodney, Caesar Augustus (04 January 1772–10 June 1824), attorney general and diplomat, was born in Dover, Delaware, the son of Thomas Rodney, a scholarly merchant and politician, and Elizabeth Maud Fisher. In his youth the family moved between Dover, Philadelphia, and Wilmington. After his mother’s death in 1783, he lived with relatives or friends when not away at school. He was the principal legatee of his uncle ...

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Schenck, Robert Cumming (04 October 1809–23 March 1890), congressman and diplomat, was born in Franklin, Warren County, Ohio, the son of General William Cortenus Schenck, a pioneer land speculator, and Elizabeth Rogers. After graduating from Ohio’s Miami College (now Miami University) in 1827, he remained there for three years teaching French and Latin. He then studied law in the office of ...

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Smith, Walter Bedell (05 October 1895–09 August 1961), military officer, ambassador, and government official, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of William Long Smith and Ida Francis Bedell, who earned a comfortable living as silk buyers. A relative had fought in every American war since the Revolution, and all that Bedell, as he was called from childhood, ever wanted to be was an army officer. An exceptionally bright but indifferent student who trained as a machinist at vocational high school, he lacked the influence to secure an appointment to West Point. The day he turned sixteen, therefore, Smith enlisted in the Indiana National Guard. Within a year he was made company sergeant, and in 1916 he accompanied the expedition to Mexico....